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Israel kibbutz the scene of a Hamas "massacre," first responders say: "The depravity of it is haunting"

Israel kibbutz scene of “massacre"
Israel kibbutz the scene of a Hamas “massacre,” first responders say 04:28

Near Sderot, Israel — Israeli emergency responders with years of experience doing the grim work of recovering bodies broke down in tears Wednesday as they told CBS News what they'd witnessed in the aftermath of Hamas' brutal terror attack on Israel. The depth of the horror unleashed by Hamas Saturday on Israeli communities near the border with the Gaza Strip was still emerging five days later.

After finally wresting back control of the small farming community of the Kfar Aza kibbutz, Israeli security forces discovered the aftermath of what a military spokesperson said could only be described as "a massacre."

Residents were murdered wherever the Hamas gunmen found them on the kibbutz, a type of communal living enclave unique to Israel, witnesses have said.

"We see blood spread out in homes. We've found bodies of people who have been butchered," said Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Maj. Libby Weiss. "The depravity of it is haunting."

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IDF soldiers remove the body of a civilian killed days earlier in an attack by Hamas militants on the Kafr Azah kibbutz near the border with Gaza, Oct. 10, 2023. Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty

Weiss told CBS News that more than one of the Israeli soldiers who first reached Kfar Aza reported finding "beheaded children of varying ages, ranging from babies to slightly older children," along with adults who had also been dismembered.

Yossi Landau, the head of operations for the southern region of Zaka, Israel's volunteer civilian emergency response organization, told CBS News he saw with his own eyes children and babies who had been beheaded.

"I saw a lot more that cannot be described for now, because it's very hard to describe," he said, speaking of parents and children found with their hands bound and clear signs of torture. 

Israel is accustomed to living in close proximity to its enemies, but the last four days have shocked the nation and shaken its sense of security.

Yehuda Gottlieb, a dual U.S.-Israeli national who works as a first responder, was outside the Be'eri kibbutz, another small farming community, as Israel's security forces battled the militants over the weekend. Security camera video shows the gunmen breaking into the compound and opening fire on its defenseless residents. Israel says more than 100 people were killed in that community alone.

Gottlieb said he'd never seen anything like it as he recalled driving into the town, carefully avoiding bodies that littered the road.

For many — both in Israel and the Gaza Strip, the small Palestinian territory run by Hamas and used as a launch pad for its terror attack — the question on Wednesday, five days after the brutal assault, was how Israel would respond.

It was raining down deadly airstrikes on the blockaded strip of land Wednesday for a fifth consecutive day, perhaps trying to soften Hamas' defenses ahead of a widely expected ground invasion.

Palestinian officials said the strikes had killed at least 950 people as of Wednesday morning, with some 5,000 more wounded — most of them purportedly women and children.

"We do whatever we can, whatever is operationally feasible, to minimize the impact on the civilians within the Gaza Strip," the IDF's Weiss told CBS News. "They are not our targets."

"The loss of life here is tragic," she said, but added that Israel "must make sure Hamas cannot launch massacres and slaughter civilians as they did this past weekend. It's just a reality with which we cannot live anymore."

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