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According to this tweet by CNN,

The Israel Prime Minister spokesman just confirmed babies and toddlers were found with their "heads decapitated" in Kfar Aza in southern Israel after Hamas attacks in the kibbutz over the weekend. That has been confirmed by the prime ministers office.

Has any outside source (not the Israeli government) confirmed decapitation on babies or toddlers?

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    Do not post any images of these events in answers here. Images of dead people and other gore are not acceptable. If they are absolutely necessary for the answer you can put them behind a non-clickable link.
    – Mad Scientist
    Oct 12, 2023 at 17:36
  • Why isn't this, and other related question, closed as per 'current events'-rule?
    – pinegulf
    Oct 16, 2023 at 6:58
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    @pinegulf you're probably confusing a "rule" with something else you read. The rules about what kinds of questions aren't allowed are here and I don't see any prohibition on current events, skeptics.stackexchange.com/help/dont-ask Either way though, this isn't a comment about the question so you should take it to Skeptics Meta Oct 16, 2023 at 7:09
  • @EvanCarroll Maybe so. yet skeptics.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2868/… seems quite clear.
    – pinegulf
    Oct 16, 2023 at 7:43
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    @pinegulf on the contrary it's not at all clear. That most upvoted answer on that page is by Andrew who thinks the questions cited are getting good answers. Most of the answers seem to be against banning current event questions. And the fact that one high rep user chose the second most upvoted answer with 13 upvotes and 8 downvotes (net score 5) hardly makes it a rule. Oct 16, 2023 at 8:04

5 Answers 5

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Yes.

Dr. Naama Samet Rubinstein, an oral surgeon who have been volunteering at the morgue to identify bodies, says in a video interview:

I've seen babies that were beheaded.

I've seen babies that were...that their eyes were taken out.

I've seen mothers that they opened their stomach and tore their -- from a pregnant woman, tore the baby out from the womb.

I don't understand how there is even a question of it, I've seen it with my eyes.

Dr. Chen Kugel, as interviewed by Sam Greenhill also confirmed that beheaded babies were found:

What about beheaded babies? Yes, said Dr Kugel, it was true.

...

Amid horrors that defy belief, the past week has seen an extraordinary debate about whether Hamas savages had decapitated defenceless babies, or had merely shot them dead. Reports of beheadings have been furiously attacked as fake news by some high-profile doubters.

It seems grotesque that we are even trying to get to the bottom of the method by which a baby was decapitated.

But there are some who refuse to believe that even the terror group's most sadistic fanatics would have stooped to such evil.

On Saturday, I spoke to a colonel who told me that he had not only seen a beheaded baby, but had held it in his arms as he recovered the child from a slaughter site in kibbutz Be'eri. Yesterday, with a heavy heart, I asked Dr Kugel, perhaps the most senior pathologist in Israel, if he had seen any babies without heads. He replied: 'Yes. Yes, I have seen that.'

He did not know the reason they had no heads, and could not state whether they had been cut off with a knife or blown off by an exploding grenade. He said: 'I cannot say. I can say that I saw people without heads.'

In a later article, Shari, who volunteers at a morgue, states:

I am a mother from New Jersey. I moved to Israel 20 years ago. I’m a normal person.

I never expected to be confronted by what I have seen.

People whose heads have been cut off. Women standing in their night dresses woken up and shot. Faces blasted off. Heads smashed and their brains spilling out

A baby was cut out of a pregnant woman and beheaded and then the mother was beheaded

and in the same article Rabbi Haim Weisberg is quoted as saying:

We have babies with their heads cut off. Bodies without hands, without legs, without genitals

Additionally, colonel Golan Vach said on video (mostly around 5:00-5:15 in the video, but also in the beginning) that he had personally seen and held a baby who had been decapitated. He is elsewhere quoted as saying

I carried the baby in my hands. I apologize, I deeply apologize, for not taking a picture.

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    @MadScientist please edit more carefully. The beginning portion of my answer is gone now, including the Jerusalem Post source.
    – DavePhD
    Oct 12, 2023 at 19:24
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    @DavePhD I had to ask a CM to redact the image, that likely caused collateral damage. And all that wouldn't have been necessary if you hadn't posted that image in the first place.
    – Mad Scientist
    Oct 12, 2023 at 19:27
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    The Jerusalem Post says they "can confirm", but don't actually confirm. Also, the second link is dead; and at the first link there is no image of a beheaded baby (nor context for associating a beheading with the Palestinian attack).
    – einpoklum
    Oct 13, 2023 at 7:45
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    @DavePhD There is the code of conduct (see "Imagery of victims") & a meta question about NSFW images. I think it might be time for a renewed meta discussion specifying rules on what exactly we do and don't want inline. In the meantime, we should see the old meta as policy. Please do not post NSFW images inline.
    – tim
    Oct 13, 2023 at 8:23
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    Where did the pictures come from and how were they verified? We're past the point where "pics or it didn't happen" is enough proof on its own. (I didn't look at the images/links.)
    – Laurel
    Oct 13, 2023 at 14:19
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tl;dr: The CNN claim, now walked back seems to have been due to Israeli West-Bank settler leader, propagated by i24 news, and baseless. But there is some newer, inconclusive, evidence to consider.

Walked-back CNN claim / due to David Ben-Zion

See this reporting in the Middle East eye.

Several newspapers, citing an Israeli soldier quoted by Israel’s i24 news channel, reported claims that babies had been beheaded or “had their throats cut”.

Many of the newspapers and websites that ran the story cited reporting by i24 journalist Nicole Zedeck as their main source. Zedeck was among a group of journalists who visited Kfar Aza accompanied by the Israeli military on Tuesday.

In social media posts, Zedeck said “one of the commanders told me they saw babies' heads cut off” and “soldiers told me they believe 40 babies/children were killed”.

i24 News is a a highly-government-aligned, outwards-consumption-oriented, Israeli news channel broadcasting internationally. Within Israel, it has essential zero viewership, nor are i24 reporters known to conduct journalistic work meriting mention. Which is to say I would consider it to be a shallow propaganda outlet. Such perceptions (or realities) regarding the channel have also been discussed in Israeli media (Haaretz; linked story is in Hebrew).

The Gray Zone reports that the source of Zedeck's information was David Ben-Zion, the vice-chairperson of the Shomron regional council of settlements in the 1967-occupied West Bank. He rose to infamy recently for declaring that the Palestinian village of Hawara should be "wiped out".

Ben David’s tweet was ‘liked’ on Twitter by Israel’s-then Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a move which prompted 22 legal scholars to call on the Attorney General to open an investigation into the official for “inducing war crimes.” When Smotrich later echoed Ben David, calling to “wipe out” Huwara the following month, the US Department of State condemned his rhetoric as “dangerous.”

...

But Ben David’s call for collective punishment in Huwara was far from his only genocidal imprecation against Palestinians. Indeed, he has used his social media accounts to repeatedly call for war crimes as well as the “deportation of the [Palestinian] masses.”

“The Palestinian people… [are] an enemy,” Ben David wrote in 2016. “We can’t change their barbaric DNA.”

As for the phrase "believe babies were killed", which she attributed to unnamed other soldiers does not claim knowledge of such killings. It is also missing the word "behead", while quoted in the context of beheadings - suggesting that the killing was in another form (which is, of course, highly immoral in itself).

The Middle East Eye reporting continues to say that:

Other journalists who visited the site said they had not heard or seen evidence to corroborate the reports.

“During the tour, we didn’t see any evidence of this, and the army spokesperson or commanders also didn’t mention any such incidents,” Oren Ziv, a journalist with +972 Magazine, wrote on social media on Wednesday.

Ziv said journalists were allowed to speak with hundreds of soldiers at the kibbutz without the supervision of the army’s spokesperson team, but none he spoke with mentioned beheaded babies.

Photographer Oren Ziv's tweet.

The state of Israel itself is not currently claiming babies were beheaded. Israel's PM statement, communicated to CNN on Oct 12th, is that

“There have been cases of Hamas militants carrying out beheadings and other ISIS-style atrocities. However, we cannot confirm if the victims were men or women, soldiers or civilians, adults or children,” the official said.

... and CNN describe their attempts to corroborate such claims:

CNN has pored through hundreds of hours of media posted online attempting to corroborate accounts of atrocities committed by Hamas. In one video, which CNN determined to be authentic but has not been able to geolocate, an assailant attacks an injured man with a garden tool in an attempt to behead him. But CNN has not seen anything that would appear to confirm the claims of decapitated children.

Claim on CBS and Yahoo / due to a (Not-quite-a-)claim by Yossi Landau

A report by CBS news attributes such a claim to Yossi Landau, a regional director for Zaqa, a first-response NGO in southern Israel. The video of that reporting does not include Mr. Landau; there is a second news item at Yahoo news, which does include his short video segment. Mr. Landau does not recount what he saw personally, but alludes to atrocities rather than listing them: He says "we saw what was done to the families, the children", while shaking his head, indicating that the killings were terrible. He does not mention beheadings. In Israeli media coverage of Landau's experience, beheadings are also not mentioned. Landau does claim, in the story in Hebrew, that Palestinian fighters "watched television while they tormented people ... and then murdered and burnt them". The claim by the Israeli major, Weiss, of beheadings, in the CBS story seems to be the claim which had later been retraced, having originating with David Ben-Zion.

Newer claim by Col. Golan Vach of a single beheading

A new, different, testimony was provided by the commander of the IDF search-and-rescue unit, Col. Golan Vach, On Oct 12th, in a call with (international) journalists, as reported by NBC. Col. Vach said he had “found one baby with his head cut.” On the 14th, he gave a video interview to the Daily Mail, near a house from which he says he had evacuated the bodies of a women and her baby, with the baby having been beheaded. Names, photos, place of burial, details about an autopsy etc. are not mentioned in the interview. I have so far not found mention of his claim in Israeli media. The interview does not go into the question of why the Israeli military walked back the claim regarding beheadings, despite the search-and-rescue unit supposedly having brought in a beheaded baby.

Newer suggestion by head of the Israeli Institute for Forensics

On October 22nd the Jerusalem Post published an article regarding analysis of the bodies of some of the slain Israelis, at the Israeli Institute for Forensics ("Legal Medicine" in literal translation). The report has institute head Noam Kugel comment on the question of beheadings:

Kugel said—if there is one to be found—is that the burned victims likely died from carbon monoxide and soot inhalation before the fire killed them. ... Many bodies, including those of babies, are without heads.

Asked if they were decapitated, Kugel answered yes. Although he admits that, given the circumstances, it’s difficult to ascertain whether they were decapitated before or after death, as well as how they were beheaded, “whether cut off by knife or blown off by RPG,” he explained.

So, Dr. Kugel believes some beheadings are likely to have happened, but with inconclusive evidence.

Since this is a matter of Dr. Kugel's interpretation, rather than his professional claims, it is perhaps not unfair to note than Dr. Kugel is also politically active in the governing Likkud party, where he had established the "Pride in the Likkud" member caucus. He has written in the past decrying solidarity with the Palestinians, claiming it is "anti-semitism in the guise of opposing Israel's crimes".

Regardless; the apparent presence of bodies with heads detached is a explanation of how the claims of beheadings have arisen.


Caveat: The dust has not yet settled and more information regarding casualties may yet surface, which could in theory establish this to have happened. I'm trying to gather the relevant sources of the claim here without fully consolidating everything into a bottom line.

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    This answer seems very biased. The claim can hardly be called "baseless". Babies were mutilated and burned alive. They may.not have been technically beheaded, but that would make the claim inaccurate, not baseless. The answer makes it seem that the leaders claim is propaganda, by describing him as a settler, when he was trying to describe actual carnage.
    – TheAsh
    Oct 13, 2023 at 14:26
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    @TheAsh: 1. This question is about beheadings, not other forms of killing. I don't know what it means to be "not technically beheaded", as opposed to "not beheaded" 2. I have not seen claims of mutilation of babies after they were killed; if there are such claims - post a link and I may well integrate that into the answer. My answer does mention other forms of killing and their immorality. 3. I said "baseless" because the originator of the beheadings rumor did not base it on anything.
    – einpoklum
    Oct 13, 2023 at 15:19
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    Not to say that this answer is wrong, since it is probably correct, but the fixation of many people on beheadings of children seems odd. If Hamas were only to have killed innocent adults with bullets, would they support them? Do its supporters believe that if they can just prove that Hamas only beheaded adults or killed babies, but through some other method, people will cheer them on? For that matter, people seem to have their own fixations with Israel's actions, too: if Israel only kills hundreds or thousands of people with bullets instead of phosphorus, is that such an improvement?
    – Obie 2.0
    Oct 15, 2023 at 2:48
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    @Obie2.0: This question is not about support or lack of support for Hamas - it's about beheadings; and that's why the answer is about beheadings. So, this comment belongs on the question, not the answer. Actually, you could even ask it as its own question (at politics.SX) and I would have an answer for you...
    – einpoklum
    Oct 15, 2023 at 7:14
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    Your new edit accepts that there were decapitated bodies of children in the scene. It should be at the start of the answer and not the end.
    – SIMEL
    Oct 23, 2023 at 14:00
8

There seems to be some walk-back from the Israeli government as well now; CNN has posted this on Oct 12:

The Israeli government has not confirmed the specific claim that Hamas attackers cut off the heads of babies during their shock attack on Saturday, an Israeli official told CNN, contradicting a previous public statement by the Prime Minister’s office.

“There have been cases of Hamas militants carrying out beheadings and other ISIS-style atrocities. However, we cannot confirm if the victims were men or women, soldiers or civilians, adults or children,” the official said.

[...] CNN has not seen anything that would appear to confirm the claims of decapitated children. CNN also visited the ransacked ruins of Kfar Aza on Tuesday and saw no evidence of beheaded youths. Israeli officials have not released any photographs of the incident either.

This post then references the Biden and "IDF spokesman, Jonathan Conricus" claims as well, so it was made later than those.

Still, one should probably wait for more information before drawing a definitive conclusion.


A bit later on CNN posted:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office Thursday released “horrifying photos of babies murdered and burned by the Hamas monsters.”

“Hamas is inhuman. Hamas is ISIS,” a social media post from Netanyahu’s office said.

The three photos showed two babies whose bodies had been burned beyond recognition and a third blood-stained infant’s body.

Netanyahu’s post said the pictures were some of the photos that Netanyahu showed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on his visit to Jerusalem on Thursday.

Unlike DavePhD's source (JP), CNN doesn't say these photos justify the original claim, nor is this PR snippet from Netanyahu's office claiming that, although of course the atrocities depicted are pretty close in spirit to the original claim, in the sense that babies did die in the Hamas attacks.


On the other hand, on Oct 16 the Daily Mail posted video interviews (taken on Oct 14) with Israeli commanders in Kibbutz Be'eri. In these interviews, Col. Golan Vach, from the National Rescue Unit, says he personally saw & recovered the body of a decapitated baby, together with that of his mother. (The two commanders interviewed there both agreed that babies were killed and some burned, but only Vach discussed the decapitated one.)

Global News too has an interview with Vach, posted on Oct 15:

Stopping outside one house, the colonel said when he arrived to evacuate the occupants, he found a woman and a baby, both dead.

The woman had been shot in the back as she tried to protect her child.

“And the baby was beheaded,” he said. “The stories of beheaded babies are true.”

After I've searched his name a bit more, it seems Vach made his first statement as early as Oct 12 (too) as reported in one para by NBC

On Thursday [Oct 12], in a call with a group of international journalists, Colonel Golan Vach, the head of the IDF’s national search and rescue unit, said that he had “found one baby with his head cut.”

but that was little noticed due to the furore over the more exaggerated claim of 40 beheaded babies, etc. that were taking the headlines at the time.

On Oct 17, The Times of Israel also quoted Vach saying:

“I am trying to figure out what kind of creatures could take women and children,” he said inside a burnt-out room. “In Be’eri, I came across a horrible scene, a mother trying to protect her baby shot in the back, and the baby decapitated.”

“I carried the baby in my hands. I apologize, I deeply apologize, for not taking a picture.”

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We have first hand eye witness of babies who were murdered, and that the murders were made in a brutal ways, including abusing of bodies after they are dead. In addition we have video evidence of the terrorists themselves abusing bodies. Currently there is no evidence of specifically beheading of babies.

This is an ongoing situation, not all the names of the murdered and kidnaped have been released and there may be more information coming out in the coming days and weeks. But there are already first hand accounts of mutilation and brutality towards the bodies of murdered civilians.

The initial report about beheadings of babies was made by i24 news reporter, Nicole Zedek, who was visiting Kfar Aza. I present first hand accounts from Be'eri and Kfar Aza.

A statement by Maj. Gen. Itai Veruv to journalists in Kfar Aza:

You see the babies, mothers, fathers in their bedrooms, in their protection rooms and how the terrorists killed them. It's not a war, it's not a battlefield, it's a massacre, it's a terror activity.

An article interviwing Zaka volunteers that were involved in the clean up of the villages that were attacked:

"אנחנו כמתנדבי זק"א מטפלים כל השנה בכל מוות בלתי טבעי, כל מקרה של פיגוע, רצח, התאבדות או תאונת דרכים. אנחנו אזרחים שעושים זאת בהתנדבות מלאה, במסירות רבה, כי אנחנו מאמינים בזה בלב שלם. אנחנו מטפלים רק באירועים קשים, אבל בממדים כאלה - גם מבחינת הכמות האדירה של הנרצחים וגם מבחינת הצורה שרצחו אותם - לא נתקלנו. מתחילת המתקפה טיפלנו בעיקר במבוגרים. כשנכנסו לבארי זה היה הרבה יותר קשה, היו שם גם ילדים ותינוקות"

...

כשהיינו בקיבוץ רעים חשבנו שראינו את הגרוע מכל עד שהגענו לבארי".

מה הייתה התחושה שלך כשפינית גופות נרצחים בבארי?

"אף פעם לא הייתי בבארי לפני כן. היינו שם צוות גדול וחשכו עינינו. אנחנו מתנדבים, ראינו הכל בחיים, אבל את הדברים האלה, הזוועות, אני לא זוכר דבר כזה שראיתי אי־פעם. כמה מוותיקי המתנדבים חשבו אפילו ברגע הראשון לפרוש כי לא יכלו לראות את זה, אבל אמרנו שזו המשימה שלנו, שאנו חייבים להמשיך להפריד את הרגש ולעשות את העבודה שלנו. אני לא יודע איך הם עשו את זה. אני מצדיע לחיילים, למתנדבים, ליחידות המיוחדות שליוו אותנו וראו את הזוועות. אני לא חושב שכדאי אפילו להעלות את זה בכתב. הברבריות שלהם, האכזריות שלהם. לפני ההרוגים והפצועים הם פתחו שולחן כדי לאכול. ראינו גם עדויות של לקיחה לשבי, כלומר יכולנו לראות שביל של דם ארוך ללא גופה".

"We as Zaka volunteers deal all year round with every unnatural death, every terror attack, murder, suicide or a trafic accident. We are civilians who are purely volunteers, with high dedication, because we believe full heartedly in it. We deal with hard events, but at these scales - both from the high volume of muirdered and from the way they were murdered - we didn't encounter. From the start of the attack we dealt mainly in grownups. When we entered Be'eri it was much harder, there were also children and babies there."

...

When we were at Kibbutz Re'im we thought we saw the worst of all until we came to be'eri.

What did you feel when you were evacuating murdered bodies in Be'eri?

I never was in Be'eri before. We were a big team and our eyes darkened. We are volunteers, we have seen everything in life, but these things, the horrors, I don't remember ever seeing such a thing. Some of the most experienced volunteers even thought to retire at first because they couldn't look at it, but we said that this is our mission, that we have to continue separating the feelings and continue doing our work. I don't know how they did it. I solute the soldiers, the volunteers, the special units that accompanied us and saw the horrors. I don't think that this should even be written. Their barbarism, their cruelty. In front of the murdered and the wounded they opened a table to eat. We also saw evidence of capturing, meaning we could see a trail of blood without a body."

A testimonial of another Zaka volunteer at Kfar Aza, from Israeli news with English subtitles:

Here they abused them. ... Children were bound together were abused. Couples were tied and were destroyed. ... They hurt everything, from age 0 to age 100, they hurt everything here.

News segment about Be'eri with several Zaka volunteers talking about burning bodies as well as this quote by Vini Gur from Zaka:

These atrocities can't be described. Very tough, and we are used to seeing tough images. These are even tougher images.

Warning, the two videos below contain some graphic footage.

A video testemony in English of a Zaka volunteer that was treating dead bodies in Be'eri, including footage of him, proving he was there. (Graphic warning: blood and body bags):

You see body parts all over, babies, kids. ... Actual parts of the. They cut the bodies, they burned the bodies in front of other bodies that were not burned. ... And in some bodies you obviously cannot even recognize the face. It was, it was shot in the face like maybe 40, 50 times. And then you couldn't even see anything it was all blown. This is, this is, this is beyond nightmare.

The attackers themselves published, in real time, a video of them hitting a the body of a civilian's body with a hoe. An uncensored version can be found around the internet, in this video montage a censored version is seen.

Finaly, while writing this answer, the Israeli PM twitter (X) account released three pictures of the bodies of babies, two of them burned. Warning, graphic images, behind this link: https://x.com/IsraeliPM/status/1712471782303867144?s=20

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  • When I copy-and-paste https://x.com/IsraeliPM/status/1712471782303867144?s=20 into my browser, it takes me to a Twitter/X page that says "this page does not exist". Do you have a non-Twitter/X source for that image? I am rarely signed into Twitter/X so I miss out on a lot of things that people send me when they send me links to tweets rather than links to the original articles or images (the same happens when people send me things on Instagram or TikTok). Oct 16, 2023 at 20:15
  • @user1271772 many news outlets have reported on the photos and included them in the article. For one example: https://www.livemint.com/news/world/babies-murdered-burned-by-hamas-monsters-israel-shares-photos-amid-war/amp-11697128208963.html To the best of my knowledge the Israeli PM office decided to publish the photos there, so twitter is the source of these specific pictures.
    – SIMEL
    Oct 16, 2023 at 22:53
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I look for messages that are disconnected from the traditional narratives of the news outlet. Sky News is not pro-Palestinian source; it's firmly in the American sphere of influence, and at that it's biased towards Israel not against it. America is Israel's greatest ally. And the IDF is literally part of the state apparatus of Israel.

  • Sky News is right-wing British news outlet previously owned by Fox News. Their correspondent Stuart Ramsey interviewed two IDF generals which did not corroborate this claim,

    Ramsay said: "At no point did either he, or the other major I spoke to, ever mention that Hamas had beheaded or killed 40 babies or children. I believe that if it were the case, they would have told me and others there. [...] To reiterate - the IDF had every opportunity to inform the world's media of any story that had become apparent as the military continue to clear up the kibbutz. The murder and beheading of 40 children was never mentioned to me or my team.

  • The IDF itself, seems to have never parroted this claim. Only refusing to rebuke it. If the claim was true and the IDF knew about it, it would be in their best interest to parrot the claim and validate it. If they claim was not true and the IDF knew about it, it would be in their best interest to refuse to rebuke it. Which is what they've done.

  • Taken from another answer (unfortunately deleted), The White House official had to refute Biden's earlier statements that he personally claimed to have seen "confirmed pictures of terrorists beheading children". The Washington Post reported, "A White House spokesperson later clarified that US officials and the president have not seen pictures or confirmed such reports independently, [...] The president based his comments about the alleged atrocities on the claims from Netanyahu's spokesman and media reports from Israel, according to the White House."

    I'm not sure how often the president is told take other leaders claims at face value, and experience them as his own. But it certainly seems reasonable to share with him the direct evidence to substantiate the extent of the attack.

  • CNN has now pulled their statements on the matter

    Yesterday the Israeli Prime Minister's office said that it had confirmed Hamas beheaded babies & children while we were live on the air. The Israeli government now says today it CANNOT confirm babies were beheaded. I needed to be more careful with my words and I am sorry.

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