A Thai man in a yellow football shirt lies on the ground, motionless. It’s unclear whether he’s alive or dead. The men standing above him kick his body as if to make sure, before one takes a gardening tool and swings it down upon his neck again and again in an attempt to hack it from his body while shouting “Allahu Akbar”.
On Thursday afternoon, this scene played in a darkened room at the Israeli embassy in London. Journalists from the BBC, Sky and national newspapers sat in neat rows, with Israeli staff clustered at the back of the room, keen to understand the fate of their compatriots.
10/30/2023 Nir Oz, Israel. Room of 2 children from the Vanunu family, who have been shot at their home by hamas militants and survived on October 30. The destruction caused by Hamas Militants when they infiltrated Kibbutz Be'eri, near the Israeli-Gaza border, southern Israel. October 25, 2023. (Photo by Dima Vazinovich / Middle East Images / Middle East Images via AFP) (Photo by DIMA VAZINOVICH/Middle East Images/AFP via Getty Images)
Almost a month after the October 7 attack, faced with denial and moral equivocation, the Jewish state is determined to prove to the world the full horror of what its citizens suffered.
After a first showing for foreign correspondents in Israel, then one for members of the Knesset and another for journalists in Washington, it was the turn of the UK to host a viewing of footage from the darkest day for Jews since the Holocaust.
Initially, there was confusion about how to refer to this event at all. “Is it a movie?” Tzipi Hotovely, the Israeli ambassador asked. No, it is a screening, she was told.
The screening would consist of almost 45 minutes of raw footage from three primary sources: GoPros strapped to the Hamas terrorists, CCTV and dashboard cameras, and the phones of Israeli victims and emergency services.
A destroyed house as a result of the Hamas attack on the Kibbutz on October 27, 2023 in Kfar Aza, Israel. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)
Showing - and witnessing - the unmediated horror was, Hotovely said, “our duty”.
“People are doubting some of the information about October 7,” she said.
The images she had already seen “haunted” her, she added. “My life will never be back… I have not had one night of normal sleep since the war started.”
But, she added, this would only be a “snapshot” - the full horror would take all day to show.
The atrocities began gradually: silent car dashcam footage showed men brandishing automatic weapons and firing at a car. Its windscreen cracked, and the vehicle began to roll forward. Then, video from the men firing played, before we saw shots taken later of the vehicle’s passengers slumped in their seats.
A destroyed car that was attacked by Palestinian militants lies by the road side on October 10, 2023 in Kfar Aza, Israel. Israel has sealed off Gaza and conducted airstrikes on Palestinian territory after Hamas attack killed hundreds and took nearly 100 hostages. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)
We moved to images of lifeless bodies lying on the road, blood pooled and smeared around their corpses. In the background, a Hamas fighter could be heard letting out a jubilant “wooo”.
Next, we watched a raid on a kibbutz. CCTV footage showed militants arriving at its yellow security gate and peering at the floor below it, searching for a way in. In the next shot a car pulled up, and as soon as the fence began to open Hamas fighters walked forward and riddled its passengers with bullets before walking inside the village.
View of the destruction caused by Hamas Militants in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, October 10, 2023. (Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
The militants moved through slowly, guns raised. As a dog ran towards them, the fighter whose GoPro we were watching from aimed and shot, killing the pet from a distance.
Spliced together from its sources, the screening unfurled its horror from multiple perspectives. The angles switched from first-person to wall-mounted cameras, and from sound to silence.
Israeli soldiers around the destruction caused by Hamas Militants in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, October 10, 2023. (Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
From these varying sources, we watched an attack on one home. A father, still in his underwear, grabbed his two young sons and ran from his house, searching for shelter.
The trio lept into a white building behind their house before a terrorist appeared as if from nowhere and hurled a grenade in after them. The explosion threw the father’s body from its hiding place, and his sons followed.
The two children, now covered in their father’s blood, were taken back into their house by Hamas.
The destruction caused by Hamas Militants when they infiltrated Kibbutz Be'eri, near the Israeli-Gaza border, southern Israel. November 1, 2023.(Photo by DIMA VAZINOVICH/Middle East Images/AFP via Getty Images)
“Daddy’s dead,” one screamed to the other. “It’s not a prank. He’s really dead.”
One of the killers loomed above them, before turning to their fridge and opening it and grabbing a bottle of tonic. “Is this water?” he asked them, before turning back and seizing a Coca-Cola to drink in front of the dazed boys.
“I wish I was dead,” we later saw one child shout to the other. “I wish I was dead!”
Perhaps the most horrifying moments of all were the photos of children and babies laid out on autopsy tables. Some looked peaceful and almost doll-like in the serenity of death. Others were caked in ash and soot.
Some bodies were hard to comprehend as human. Their limbs had been splayed and twisted beyond recognition, or transfigured into lumps of charcoal.
Images of destroyed buildings showed further human remains burnt beyond any recognition. Nearly a month on, there are still some that cannot be identified from even DNA analysis.
After it ended, the room sat in stunned silence for a moment. The journalists assembled had few questions left, and no verdict could yet be articulated on what we had seen.
“The boys whose father was killed,” I said to the embassy spokeswoman. “Did they survive?”
She told me their brother had gone fishing and was shot, but yes - they had made it out alive.