Horror in the Holy Land

Photo: Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images
Julia Ioffe
November 7, 2023

It’s been exactly one month since Hamas fighters broke through the Gaza border fence and killed at least 1,400 Israelis, the vast majority of them civilians. They shot people at close range, hunting them like animals. They burned people alive, they tortured them and lopped off body parts, they mutilated the dead, and they raped. Some women were apparently raped so violently that their pelvic bones were broken. Dozens of victims have still not been identified because their bodies have been rendered unrecognizable or were burned at such high temperatures that there are no longer any fragments of DNA left to find.

Hamas also took at least 240 hostages and dragged them back to Gaza, where they are being held in a maze of tunnels. Some of them are tiny children who have been separated from their parents for a full month now, while others watched their parents murdered. One 85-year-old Israeli hostage, who was freed along with three others, said on her release that she “went through hell.” 

In response, the Israeli government, which had just been patting itself on the back for having contained the Palestinian “problem” and missed Hamas’s preparations for the attack, responded with overwhelming force, leveling whole neighborhoods, wiping out whole families at a time. As of this writing, some 10,000 Palestinians have been killed in just one month. Whether you believe the numbers coming out of the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry or not, the number is, according to the Pentagon, in the thousands. For that entire month, Gaza—where people regularly reported going hungry, downsizing meals or skipping them altogether in the months before the war—has been completely cut off from imports of food, water, and fuel. And whether you believe the fact that Hamas has all the food, water, and fuel it needs, whether you praise the Israeli government for letting in however many trucks of aid a day, it is hard to argue that Gazan civilians are not facing dire shortages of basic goods needed for human survival, and that they wouldn’t need aid trucks to begin with if they weren’t under siege.