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One of the survivors of the Hamas music festival attack on the 7th of October 2023 has claimed the following:

When I say “terrorist”, I am including not only Hamas but also the thousands of Gazan citizens who infiltrated the country of Israel just to loot, rape and kill. [Video]

Is this claim true? I would like to know because this claim has been repeated by more people and such claims can be used to dehumanize Gazan citizens based on them being supposedly complicit in the attacks.

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    What part are you doubting? About 2,500 invaded from Gaza. Not all were Hamas, some were Islamic Jihad. Are you doubting they are Gazans? Thinking they are from Iran or have some other citizenship?
    – DavePhD
    Oct 27, 2023 at 13:03
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    I understand now that I listened to more of the video, thanks.
    – DavePhD
    Oct 27, 2023 at 14:18
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    There is a scene filmed but in Gaza where a group of mostly young men in civilian clothing start kicking a dead Israeli soldier after he is dumped from a truck by guys who did have more clear combat gear and quasi-uniforms on them. But it's hard to say who the unarmed, civilian dressed young guys were even if they don't look like total random passers by. Oct 27, 2023 at 15:02
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    I'm skeptical however that even such people would have ventured too far into Israel though, especially unarmed. And if they had guns, there's the Q of how'd they got them. I'm not sure how well Hamas is able to control civilian or other group's ownership of weapons in Gaza. Oct 27, 2023 at 15:06
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    There is video footage , made by the terrorists themselves showing people in civilian clothes entering Israel through the breaches and looting. There were also armed terrorists who were dressed in civilian clothes. And we have (again, Hamas produced) footage of terrorists inside gaza fighting in civilian clothes. I'm sceptical myself of the number, but there are clear evidence that looting happened and that what looked like civilians entered Israel. Would that sufiaty as an answer. It would be hard to speak of exact numbers.
    – SIMEL
    Oct 27, 2023 at 15:18

4 Answers 4

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Gazan Civilians did join the attack, took part in looting and at least in some of the violence. It would be hard to determine the exact number and in some cases to differentiate them from militants.

Before we start with the evidence we need to define what a "Civilian" is. And it's hard to define. Assuming that anyone with a weapon is considered a militant, then in the footage of the attack some terrorist attacked wearing uniform, wearing military gear (usually a vest) and wielding weapons. Some Hamas terrorist attacked wearing civilian clothes with military gear and weapons and some with only civilian clothes and a weapon. At least in one video (not linked here, it's gory) I saw what looked to be a civilian, only later to reveal that he had a pistol holstered. This is also what the speaker in the video defines as a civilian, at around 8:20 in the video she sais:

How could you tell the Hamas from the regular folks from Gaza?

it's very it was very easy by how they how what they were wearing "the soldiers" [...] had an uh like a caramic vest and uh guns and they were dressed in uniforms. And the other civilians were just people like you and me in blue jeans and sneakers some were Barefoot.

Starting from the easiest, see below SFW photos of Gazans in civilian clothes with no visible weapons entering Israel on Oct 7th:

Palestinians break into the Israeli side of Israel-Gaza border fence after gunmen infiltrated areas of southern Israel REUTERS/Mohammed Fayq Abu Mostafa

Palestinians celebrate as an Israeli military vehicle burns after it was hit by Palestinian gunmen who infiltrated areas of southern Israel, at the Israeli side of Israel-Gaza border REUTERS/Yasser Qudih

And a picture of a Palestinian in civilian clothes with no visible military gear holding weapons

A Palestinian gunman holds his weapon after infiltrating the Israeli side of Israel-Gaza border fence REUTERS/Yasser Qudih.

All of the pictures are from a compilation by Reuters with some NSFW photos:

https://www.reuters.com/pictures/pictures-three-weeks-gaza-israel-2023-10-27/

Another picture of the same tank with unarmed Gazans in civilian clothes, armed Gazans in civilian clothes and Armed Gazans with military gear in civilian clothes Abed Rahim Khatib – Anadolu Agency. source: Middle East Monitor

In this SFW video compiling several security camera footage videos we see civilian dressed Gazan looting motorcycles, bikes, some unidentified items from a home a TV and agricultural equipment from Kibutz Be'eri.

And we have this testimony of a soldier that took part in the fighting and pushing back of the terrorists about looters specifically in the grounds of the Nova music festival (where the women in the testimony was when the attack began):

הכוח חוזה באזרחים לא חמושים מעזה שרצים כדי לבזוז, ואוזק אותם. "הם אמרו לנו בעברית שהם באו 'רק' לבזוז, לא לפגוע. כל הכיסים שלהם היו מלאים בטלפונים ובכסף שנלקח מאנשי המסיבה", סיפר, "אבל קולות הירי מסביב המשיכו, אז החלטנו להמשיך הלאה".

The force sees unarmed civilians from Gaza running to loot and handcuffs them. "They said that they 'only' came to loot, not to harm. All of their pockets were filled with phones and money taken from the party goers", he told, "but the sounds of firing around continued so we decided to continue farther".

There are many videos of looting, of Israeli looted cars and equipment in Gaza and of Gazans in Civilian clothes take part in the looting and in the fighting, just one final example of this, is Gazans in civilian clothes take part in the kidnapping of Israelis. In this Insider article there are three (SFW) pictures of three different kidnapping, in two of them we see the kidnapers riding in a looted golf cart like vehicle driven by unarmed men in civilian clothes, and one with an armed gunman in civilian clothes on a motorcycle with the victim.

Another evidence of the looting we have from the fallowing news (source in Hebrew) telling that John Deere remotely disabled 15 Tractors and other agricultural equipment that was looted to the Gaza strip.

ממידע שהגיע לגיקטיים עולה כי בשבת ה-7 באוקטובר נעשה שימוש במערכת גם בישראל, כשהיבואנית של ג'ון דיר בישראל, מפרם סוכנויות, השביתה מרחוק 15 טרקטורים וכלים חקלאיים שונים שהפלסטינים ניסו לבזוז ולהעביר לשטחי הרצועה. בשיחה עם גורם המכיר את הנושא מקרוב, עולה שבשבת בבוקר, החלו להתקבל התראות רבות במערכת על כלים שיצאו מהשטח המוגדר, ועושים את דרכם לרצועת עזה: "יחד עם הגל הראשון נכנסו גם האספסוף. האספסוף, כל דבר שהם יכלו להניע ולקחת הם לקחו… החבר'ה האלה עבדו בקיבוצים, במושבים אז הם מכירים הכל מקרוב…" אומר אותו גורם.

Information that GeekTime obtained shows that on Saturday, the-7th of October the system was used also in Israel, when the importer of John Deere in Israel, Mifram Agencies, remotely deactivated 15 tractors and various agricultural vehicles the Palestinians tried to loot and to transfer to the strip territory. In a conversation with a person familiar with the subject closely reveals that on Saturday morning many indications started to be received about vehicles leaving the designated area and moving towards the Gaza strip: "Together with the first was the rabble entered. The rabble, everything they could start and take they took... there guys worked in the Kibbutzs, the Moshavs so they are closely familiar with everything..." said the familiar person.

Final note on militants in civilian clothes. Unlike well orgenized militaries and even para-militaries where all members wear uniform, the Hamas utilizes militants who wear civilian clothes during military operations, one example can be seen in the fallowing Hamas produced video where a Hamas operative in civilian clothes with no visible weapons or military gear shown firing a mortar.

Lastly we need to put the claim in context. The speaker is a first hand witness and a victim, she is not an official spokesperson nor a historian talking long time after the fact with all the facts known and available. In the video she says that she recognized the terrorists because they wore ceramic (bullet proof) vests. To the best of my knowledge no killed or captured terrorist (and there are over a 1000 of them) wore a bullet proof vest, nor a helmet or any other safety equipment (they also didn't have water or first aid on them). And that the terrorist killed thousands, but we know that the number of killed is around 1700. I wouldn't use this testimony to get exact numbers as she didn't have full knowledge of the general picture, nor didn't try to give it, but told her personal story and her experience. I would be lenient with the exact number of civilian clothed Gazans that entered Israeli territory on Oct. 7th but as there are many photos and videos each with tens of civilians from different places I can say that at least hundreds of Gazans in civilian clothes entered and looted on that day.

All the clickable links in this answer show SFW footage, no bodies or gore in any of them.

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There's no simply good criteria to answer this question.

If the question is "Were some attackers not Hamas?" the answer is yes. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad captured Israeli civilians. (https://www.newsweek.com/shani-oluk-video-festival-hamas-attack-1832988)

If the question is "Were there non-militants?" the answer is essentially tautologically no.

If the question is "Did Hamas have civilian support?", the answer is mixed. In 2021, Hamas received 53% support (https://apnews.com/article/hamas-middle-east-science-32095d8e1323fc1cad819c34da08fd87), so there was substaintial support for their goals and practices. (Though not necessarily this event in particular.)

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    In the video she is saying that unarmed people, even some barefoot, infiltrated. So I don't see why it is "tautologically no".
    – DavePhD
    Oct 27, 2023 at 20:35
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    The question is not about civilian support for Hamas but participation in the attacks. And it is referring to civilians who were not part of militant groups.
    – hb20007
    Oct 27, 2023 at 20:39
  • @DavePhD Yes the video seems to suggest that but her just saying that she saw them does not prove anything. So, Paul's statement might be correct but he provides no evidence either.
    – hb20007
    Oct 27, 2023 at 20:41
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    According to the most recent poll #88 (7-11 June 2023), 70% support 'armed attacks against Israeli civilians inside Israel' in Gaza, 29% oppose. In the WB, 48% support, 44% oppose, 9% don't know or didn't answer. It is important to note these polls concern adults only and the population is very young in Palestine, especially in Gaza: pcpsr.org/sites/default/files/…
    – Adam Smith
    Nov 1, 2023 at 20:21
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    @DavePhD, in that video, she said they came "just to loot, rape and kill." That claim makes them a terrorist/aggressor. Nov 8, 2023 at 17:00
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Yes, there is clear evidence that non-combatant citizens joined the Hamas attack, though their exact number cannot be determined. In this article there are videos from the Nir Oz security footage, as well as testimonies of massacre survivors, that 10 years old children participated in the attack, e.g. by invading homes and opening the door from inside to let the Hamas terrorists in. There were also non-combatant women, who participated in the invasion and looting.

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    The claim is "thousands". I don't think this article demonstrates that. "at least a dozen children" says one eye witness.
    – Oddthinking
    Nov 21, 2023 at 12:33
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    @Oddthinking you are right. Unfortunately, most eye-witnesses did not survive to tell. Nov 21, 2023 at 13:33
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    You're spreading hateful propaganda with that source "This has always been the Palestinians' culture," Milshtein said. "What changes is their capability to act against Israel." It's one account published only in a tabloid which also has articles entitled "Alex Jones Declares War (Against the Global Satanic Mad Scientist Pedophile Conspiracy That Actually Might Not Be Entirely Made Up If You Think About It)" A new level of desperation. Nov 21, 2023 at 19:14
  • @EvanCarroll The source provides names of eye-witnesses. Nov 22, 2023 at 12:29
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Balance

"Gazan citizens", "civilians" and "non-standard uniforms"

Presumably "civilian" and "Gazan citizens" in the question are the same, and intended to mean NOT a trained member of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, as it pertains to Operation Al-Aqsa Flood. The proper definition from International Humanitarian Law Databases is

any person who is not a member of armed forces is considered to be a civilian

However, there is an obvious equivocation from the testimony,

Soldiers had the Quranic vest, guns, and dressed in uniforms. And the other civilians were just people like you and me in blue jeans and sneakers. Some were barefoot. Some even came on horse, or in pickup trucks. They infiltrated the country in masses. So it's not correct to say it's only Hamas. The majority of the people were just Gaza citizens.

Here a soldier is defined by how they dress, and anyone dressed otherwise is a civilian. The alternative explanation here is that some non-civilian members of al-Qassam Brigades simply went plain clothes on their surprise attack.

But dress isn't sufficient to conclude anything,

“Dressing in this manner more accurately may be described as wearing a ‘non-standard uniform’ than ‘dressing as civilians.’" (Parks, W. Hays (2003) "Special Forces' Wear of Non-Standard Uniforms," Chicago Journal of International Law: Vol. 4: No. 2, Article 16)

Morally, I must admit I find this behavior unacceptable, but it's established and accepted and there is no rule of engagement that prohibits this. Moreover, on the topic of international law it's important to keep violations weighted, one side may use plain clothes. But that's attrie; the other side is air-bursting white phosphorous over civilians, as Human Rights Watch reports,

The use of white phosphorus in densely populated areas of Gaza violates the requirement under international humanitarian law to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian injury and loss of life, Human Rights Watch said.

On military regalia, here are other states that use"non-standard uniforms" (plain clothes),

The point here is that attire is NOT enough to make a conclusion about "civilian" or "Gazan citizens".

Thousands of civilians, and 400 elite soldiers?

This was a special surprise operation not a full scale assault. Described by Reuters,

ELITE COMMANDO GROUND UNIT This was a 400-strong elite force, which broke through the fortified Gaza fence using explosives to open up gaps so they could infiltrate to the Israeli side. After some crossed on motorcycles, bulldozers were used to widen the holes so teams could enter Israeli territory in four-wheel drive vehicles. The commandoes attacked the first Israeli defense lines, raided sleeping quarters of soldiers and seized bases and the headquarters of Israel's military operation for southern Gaza, the source said. Videos issued by Hamas showed the fighters breaching the security fences, with the dim light and low sun suggesting it was at around the time as the rocket barrage.

Reuters identifies the the elite force as being 400 strong: I see no evidence to substantiate a claim of there being thousands MORE people engaging in looting, raping and stealing, other then this one account. Further, I don't even see how a survivor at a festival would have seen thousands of "Gaza citizens" to start with: it seems absurd and unclear. Is she saying,

  • on their way to looting, raping, and killing Gaza citizens all stopped by the music festival for her to have seen them; or,
  • that there were thousands of Gaza citizens that descended upon the festival to "loot, rape, and kill" there?

Fences, "joining an attack" and the source claim

Lastly, I would point out that videos and testimony near the fence certainly have some civilian involvement. However, being near a fence, or celebrating on an already downed tank isn't "joining an attack". Joining an attack is also a low bar not present in the claim: the claim is about looting, raping, and killing. I see 0 evidence any civilian was involved in this on October 7.

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    Some of the Hamas Terrorist wore IDF uniform, which is a clear violation of Article 39 of the Geneva Convention. There were people in civilian clothes and no weapons inside the attacked Kibbutzim, not just close to the fence. There were unarmed people in civilian clothes shown taking and abusing Hostages both inside Israel and inside Gaza.
    – SIMEL
    Nov 21, 2023 at 18:54
  • I made my case, you don't have to like it. You're not a civilian because of how you dress. You're a civilian if you're not trained and operating with a militia or army. Armies have propagandists and combat medics, and other accessory personnel which do not carry guns. You can't just conclude they're civilian. Nov 21, 2023 at 18:58
  • There's even a video (can't find it now, maybe s/o can post the link), from a kibbutz surveillance camera, showing a guy from Gaza hobbling in on crutches. To loot or maim, not sure. But I guess undercover special forces come in all types...
    – YouDontSay
    Nov 22, 2023 at 0:56
  • Well, if you're not sure he could just be viewing the shit show, right? This is what I'm saying. You want to claim people are looting and maiming are civilians and you either show a civilian "hobbling on crutches" or you show someone in plain clothes with the militants and assume based on attire they're civilians. Nov 22, 2023 at 1:09
  • @YouDontSay Just so you know what proof looks like to me, I'm sure Hamas will tell you who was fighting under their banner and who wasn't. When the IDF captures militants, you send them a letter. You ask, are these enlisted? If they're NOT enlisted and they were literally a part of the attack and not spectators, you have your case. Until then, it's just a crafty propagandist narrative, and I'm only here to offer the other side. I also do not know these were NOT civilians. But I'm not making the claim: reasonably, the burden of proof is on you. Nov 22, 2023 at 1:11

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