Disturbing footage from the early days of the Israel-Hamas war has become a topic of controversy over a month later, as one major Israeli newspaper strongly suggests it shows helicopter footage of Israeli forces firing indiscriminately on civilians "approximately an hour after the onset of the [Hamas] terror attack" on Oct. 7, while media fact checkers - including those dropping 'community notes' on X, insist the clip does not show the IDF firing on concertgoers - and that Israeli forces instead "mainly fired within Kibbutzim at the directive of IDF soldiers on the ground, precisely, as stated in the source, that they couldn't differentiate."
While it's documented that Hamas massacred the majority of the more than 1,400 Israelis who died in the attack, the implication is that Israeli forces tasked with repelling the Hamas assault may have contributed to the death toll, after IDF pilots firing from gunships had trouble distinguishing who was Hamas and who were civilians.
While the footage began circulating shortly after the attack, major Israeli daily outletappears to have been the first to delve deeper on the pilot cam footage from aboard one or more of the AH-64 Apache choppers which responded to the Oct.7 Nova attack. The IDF-produced footage (first published last month) shows the gunships firing on a multitude of targets - including vehicles and groups of people. Possible targets include Hamas and Israeli civilians alike, and perhaps groups of Palestinian civilians who were pouring across the breached Gaza border fence. When the footage was initially released, the IDF presented it as showing Hamas invaders being destroyed. Upon further analysis, coupled with the reporting, raises the specter of large-scale "friendly fire" which may have occurred. The below is only a short clip, and the fuller, five-minute video montage can be viewed here.
BREAKING: Israel admits apache helicopters fired on their own civilians running from the Supernova music festival. "The pilots realised that there was tremendous difficulty in distinguishing within the occupied outposts and settlements who was a terrorist and who was a… pic.twitter.com/wv6wR710qO
-- Syrian Girl (@Partisangirl) November 9, 2023
YNet's military correspondent Yoav Zitun described how the first helicopters over the scene were reliant on limited numbers of troops and security personnel on the ground, who were calling in targets to command centers utilizing cell phones and WhatsApp:
"As the pilots struggled to differentiate between terrorists and civilians, the decision was made to prioritize the immediate halt of the influx of Hamas terrorists and the potentially dangerous Gaza mobs breaching the border."
But what's clear from the now widely viewed on-the-ground Oct.7 videos which emerged almost in real time, masses of Israeli concert-goers were running, hiding, and seeking shelter in many directions. Others were whisked away on Hamas motorcycles as kidnappings ensued. But according to the report, Israeli pilots - unable to differentiate targets, unleashed heavy machine gun fire on people below, which may have included concert-goers.
In one scene from the harrowing footage - the date of which is also in dispute, a small car is seen speeding through an open field before the hovering gunship scored a direct hit on it. There's no way to know just from the footage whether it was full of Israeli civilians or Hamas fighters, or what level of confidence IDF ground sources had prior to the takedown (note: for clearer, fuller footage, go here):
More footage from the Israel Apache helicopters shooting at cars: "The Apache pilots testify that they fired a huge amount of munitions, emptied the ‘belly of the helicopter' in minutes, flew to re-arm and returned to the air, again and again. But it didn't help and they… pic.twitter.com/Op19FdoWiN
-- Syrian Girl (@Partisangirl) November 9, 2023
As the footage is now going viral on social media (nearly a month after it first appeared via Israeli sources), some fact-checkers have sought to emphasize that it actually shows Israeli helicopters firing only on Hamas terrorists.
A "community note" on X has since claimed the following: "This video is from October 9, 2023 and shows Israeli AH-64 Apache attack helicopters engaging Hamas militants with 30mm chain gun fire and Hellfire missiles." But this community note itself is misleading, as it asserts the video is "from October 9". However, Oct 9 is merely when it was first posted to X/Twitter, and not the date the footage was captured aboard the Apache.
Crucially, the English-language YNet article published on Oct.16 by military correspondent Yoav Zitun captioned the footage in question as follows:
The original YNet Hebrew version of the article, published the day prior - Oct.15 - indicates the same. According to a machine translate from the Hebrew: "approximately an hour after the onset of the [Hamas] terror attack.":
Fact Check: The footage showcased is NOT of IDF helicopters firing on unidentified targets at the Nova concert. What it showcases is an Apache pilot firing on those trying to infiltrate from/return to Gaza. Even the source he links never mentions the concert. https://t.co/kyyY0IRa1P
-- Tal Hagin (@talhagin) November 9, 2023
YNet's own commentary is as follows [emphasis ZH]:
Implicit is this latter sentence is the suggestion that the pilots were when they first unloaded their heavy guns at rapid pace.
Definitely worth highlighting now, but it's not breaking. I covered it in my piece over 10 days ago, and featured the Apache helicopter video. https://t.co/dPcMgW8DLr
-- Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) November 9, 2023
YNet's military correspondent further emphasized that pilots were so confused at what they were seeing on the ground, they began essentially making educated guesses as to which were Hamas targets and who were civilians.
In some instances, the guesswork came down to whether people were walking or running from the scene:
Below: Is this a civilian car? A Hamas golf cart in the process of kidnapping Israeli civilians? Are civilians in the vicinity? What intelligence did the pilots have on this vehicle? It seems almost impossible to tell...
The possibility that many Israeli civilians could have tragically died due to friendly fire has been raised in several other investigative pieces.
For example, Max Blumenthal of previously compiled multiple interviews of Israeli tank operators and pilots whose testimonies are consistent with the aforementioned Ynet analysis. According to these sources:
Meanwhile, pro-Palestinian and pro-Hamas channels have begun to also to pick up on and echo these claims, asserting that many of the cars destroyed while fleeing the festival site were the result of an Israeli air assault or other heavy weaponry:
#Israel's military released footage showing hundreds of scorched and damaged cars moved from the Nova music festival, which it claims that Hamas attacked. The cars have been apparently targeted with highly destructive weapons that Hamas does not reportedly own. pic.twitter.com/EO7pcfujG1
-- Quds News Network (@QudsNen) November 8, 2023
While we certainly don't expect the Israeli government or military to come out and admit to any large-scale friendly fire incidents, Israel's own media is asking questions.