(WTVO) — Claims that Hamas militants slaughtered and decapitated up to 40 infants during its attack on the Kfar Aza kibbutz have sent shockwaves around the world.
Criticism from pro-Palestinian sympathizers says the Israeli Defense Forces spread the claim in order to demonize Hamas without demonstrating it to be true.
Hamas has denied the claims, saying the accusations are Israeli propaganda “fabricated and disseminated by certain Western media outlets that uphold the Zionist narrative.”
On Tuesday, IDF spokesperson Major Nir Dinar told Business Insider that infant bodies had been found, and some had been decapitated. He then said the IDF would not confirm exactly how many babies had been killed, saying it would be “disrespectful for the dead.”
In a statement, Dinar said the IDF “can’t confirm any numbers” but said the kibbutz attack was a “massacre” in which children were “brutally butchered in an ISIS way of action.”
An Israeli paramedic responding to the scene said the military encountered piles of burned and mutilated bodies, and corpses of sexually assaulted women once the forces repelled the militants and regained control of the Kibbutz Beeri community.
On Wednesday, Dinar added, “We’re not going to investigate the condition of bodies and even if we did we won’t comment publicly about the condition of our civilians’s bodies. And babies.”
“This enough of an evidence, in my perspective,” Dinar said. “Me, as a military, I’m not going to investigate or count the number of babies whose throats were slit or decapitated.”
On Wednesday, Tal Heinrich, a spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said toddlers and babies were found with their “heads decapitated.”
The initial information came from Israeli media outlet i24 News journalist Nicole Zedeck, who gave a now-viral live report in the aftermath of the attack.
Zedeck described seeing homes containing cribs and toddler’s clothing that were splattered with blood and riddled with bullets.
A Turkish state-run news agency, Anadolu Agency, pushed back at the horrifying claims Tuesday, saying that an Israeli army spokesperson told them over the phone “We have seen the news, but we do not have any details or confirmation about that.”
In a subsequent interview with India Today, Zedeck said “This is absolutely one of the worst acts of violence we have ever seen committed in Israeli territory. Something like this has never happened.”
“Soldiers told me they believe 40 babies/children were killed. The exact death toll is still unknown as the military continues to go house to house and find more Israeli casualties,” she said in an X post.
i24 News anchor Laura Cellier said Wednesday that “we stand firmly behind our reporters,” adding they were “told by 3 separate IDF officials that around 40 babies & small children were murdered in Kfar Aza, some burned, some beheaded.”
CBS News reported that recovery teams had found beheaded babies and children. The organization also reported that Yossi Landau, the head of operations for the southern region of Zaka’s volunteer emergency response, said he had personally seen adults, children, and babies who had been beheaded.
Itai Veruv, a major general with IDF, told CNN he personally witnessed Hamas fighters “go from apartment to apartment, room to room and kill babies, mothers, fathers in their bedroom.”
Muslim leaders have derided the claims of Hamas’ alleged atrocities to be part of a propaganda effort by Israeli authorities that have been echoed through Western media.
At a press conference held by Muslim leaders in Michigan on Wednesday morning, speakers pointed to an account from an Israeli settler who said Hamas fighters came into her house, ate bananas and left, telling her: “Don’t worry. We’re Muslim. We won’t hurt you.”
Videos of Israeli citizens being kidnapped by militants have been shared online.
Hamas has threatened to murder the 130 hostages, which include children – some as young as 9 months old – in response to Israel’s subsequent bombing of Gaza, and Israeli schools have urged parents to delete Instagram and TikTok from their phones in order to avoid seeing the graphic videos Hamas may ultimately make public.
“It has been brought to our attention that videos of hostages begging for their lives will soon be released,” one message said.
According to the Middle East Research Institute (MEMRI), Arab commentators have also condemned the brutality.
“They murdered an Israeli woman, stripped her, crushed her corpse, and drove her around [in their Jeep] as a show of victory… But a victory of what?! Are these the principles of Islam?!” wrote user Jasem Aljuraid.
A video purported to show the naked body of Shani Louk, a German tattoo artist, being paraded unconscious or dead in the back of a pickup truck by Hamas fighters.
Louk’s mother publicly pleaded for information on her daughter’s whereabouts. According to Der Spiegel, she later said the family now believes she is in the Indonesian Hospital at Beit Lahia, saying “We now have further information that Shani is alive, but has a severe head injury and is in critical condition. Every minute is critical.”
Louk was last seen dancing at a trance music festival where a reported 260 revelers were killed and countless others injured in a surprise Hamas attack.
Biden outlined the actions he and other allies have taken to support Israel in the aftermath of the attack and expressed his horror about “sickening” reports of torture inflicted by militants on civilians.
He also said the number of U.S. citizens confirmed to have been killed in the fighting has reached 14, up from 11 reported previously. U.S. officials said that death toll could increase further as some 20 Americans remain unaccounted for.
Hamas responded to Biden’s remarks with a statement defending its actions, saying they were fighting against an occupation and defending Palestinians’ right to self-determination. Hamas called on Biden to “move away from the policy of double standards” when it comes to Israel.
The Israeli military estimated 1,000 Hamas fighters took part in Saturday’s initial incursion. The high figure underscored the extent of planning by the militant group ruling Gaza, which has said it launched the attack in response to mounting Palestinian suffering under Israel’s occupation and blockade of Gaza.
The gunmen rampaged for hours, gunning down civilians and snatching people in towns, along highways and at a techno music festival attended by thousands in the desert.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.