GLILOT BASE, Israel — I wanted it to stop at 17 minutes in. But I had to watch. We had to bear witness.
This is what we saw.
A father and two sons, in their underwear, having just woken up, are trying to flee from their home.
The father picks up one boy and all three run to a shelter in the back yard.
A terrorist peers over the fence and lobs a grenade into the shelter. It bounces off the back wall and explodes.
The father’s body falls forward. A boy appears, covered in his father’s blood, looking at his father.
For a moment, you think the terrorists will shoot him.
Instead, the armed terrorists bring the boys inside, into the home.
One boy sits on a chair, the other on a couch, both still in their underwear, both covered in trickles of blood, theirs and their father’s. They wail: “Daddy! Daddy!” The boy on the couch says, “Itay, I think they are going to kill us.”
A terrorist — with a Palestinian flag patch on his flak jacket — opens the fridge and asks if they want water — “mayim,” in Hebrew. The one on the couch replies, in English, that he wants his mother — not “mayim,” but “mommy.” He repeats: “Mommy. Mommy.”
Then comes the worst moment of all.
We see the boy on the couch, now doubled over on the rug. “Why am I alive?” he wails.
He then looks at the brother in the chair. There is a red, black space where his eye used to be. He asks if his brother can see out of that eye. He says that he cannot. The other brother asks again. Are you joking? He repeats that he cannot see.
Somehow, the boys escape together, out the back door.
Later, the footage shows the mother coming to the home with local security guards. She sees her husband’s body, and her legs give way. She screams, and the security guards place a hand on her mouth and try to drag her away. The attack is still going on, and they are still at risk of being killed.
That was the worst, for me — the footage of that event compiled from multiple surveillance cameras in a town that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) asked us not to reveal, since the relatives of the dead have not yet seen the footage.
On Monday, the IDF invited journalists onto a military base to view 43 minutes of raw footage of the attack by the Palestinian Hamas terrorist group on October 17 — an attack that claimed over 1,400 lives and saw over 4,000 people wounded, and more than 200 taken prisoner.
The footage was compiled from both victims and perpetrators, from GoPro cameras, dashboard cameras, social media, surveillance cameras, and even audio recording apps on mobile phones. It is just a small part of what the IDF still possesses.
We were not allowed to bring cell phones, cameras, or laptops into the room, because the IDF does not want the public to see the footage before the families of the victims have seen it — if it is ever seen again at all. We were only allowed notepads and pens.
Throughout the screening, there were gasps, and cries in the audience. I heard some journalists whisper: “Make it stop.”
Some of the footage had already appeared in snippets of news coverage, or on social media, during the attack on October 7, and in the hours that followed. But most had never been screened publicly before, or in full context.
We saw — we still see, in our memories — civilian drivers being murdered in their cars. We saw terrorists setting fires to homes. We saw the aftermath — burned bodies; corpses of people who had been bound and gagged; bodies of murdered children and babies; a decapitated soldier.
We see and hear the terrified screams of female IDF soldiers who had taken shelter against the attack. Some are murdered underneath a table as they scream — the incoherent, terrified scream of a living human being facing violent death, helplessly.
Again and again, we see Hamas terrorists pumping bullets into people who are already dead — just to make sure.
Some of the terrorists are visibly and audibly nervous in the footage. But they are not in a combat situation: they are coming for civilians.
They are hunting Jews, trying to find them in their hiding places, reveling in the piles of bodies, mutilating corpses, looting the victims.
The film also contains an audio sequence, recorded on the phone of one of the victims, used by a terrorist to call his parents back home in Gaza to boast that he had killed 10 Jews. He tells them to check their WhatsApp, where he has His father replies: “Allahu akbar!” (God is great!).
But then the realization sets in that his son is probably not coming back — that he intends to become a martyr, and to die fighting, so that he can kill as many Jews as possible. The mother comes to the phone and pleads with him to come back.
She is not, after all that murder, proud of him.
We see scenes of the carnage at the music festival — terrorists shooting into the closed doors of portable toilets, murdering those within. We see victims hiding in a dumpster; we see hostages, bloodied, in agony, being loaded onto trucks as their captors laugh.
There is no moment of redemption in the footage. We do not see the end, when the good guys arrive and save the victims. The only comfort is the knowledge that the GoPro footage, at least, was retrieved from the terrorists after they were killed or captured.
After the video was done, we were allowed to go outside to retrieve our equipment. I needed to start writing as soon as I did so.
But first, I had to sit down. I leaned against a wall and cried. I kept thinking about those little boys and the nightmare they endured.
IDF Spokesman Admiral Daniel Hagari said that the military had hesitated before sharing the footage. But he said the IDF ultimately decided to do so because “we want to understand, ourselves, what we are fighting for.” He spoke about the duty to create a “collective memory,” noting that Israel was doing so even while it was still fighting the enemy that had attacked it.
Hagari also said that the attacks had nothing to do with Islam. But it was impossible to ignore the shouts of “Allahu Akbar!” that accompanied so much of the killing, and that greeted the dead bodies and the bloodied captives when they arrived in Gaza.
Whatever this attack had to do with Islam is something that Islam has to deal with. For now, Israel has a war to fight and win.
And this is why: a terrible crime, a crime against humanity, demands justice.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.