Who Were Victims of the October 7 Hamas Attack?

A tally of the many people Hamas slaughtered and captured outside Gaza on October 7, 2023, including their identities, was still being painstakingly determined months later, in the face of multiple obstacles.

  • On December 4, Times of Israel wrote, “Almost two months after the unprecedented Hamas onslaught on southern Israel, which left some 1,200 people dead, the exact data on those killed in the biggest terror attack in Israeli history is still shrouded in uncertainty. Israel has officially identified 1,151 people murdered in the Hamas onslaught, with an unknown number of others still awaiting confirmation, and some of the remaining Gaza hostages possibly dead as well.” On January 4, it wrote that 240 were taken hostage.
  • On November 12, The New York Times wrote, “The vast majority of those killed in the Oct. 7 assault — around 70 percent — have been identified as civilians, not soldiers, by Israeli authorities. According to Israeli police, health officials have identified at least 846 civilians killed in the fighting.” On November 28, it wrote that 240 people were taken hostage.
  • On November 23, Haaretz used its own exhaustive research.to determine, “Of the total number of fatalities on our current list, 851 are civilians (including 59 from the police force and 13 from the emergency services) and 368 are IDF soldiers. Of these, 1,105 died on October 7.” On January 5, it wrote that 132 people were taken hostage and 26 have been confirmed dead.
  • On December 15, France24 relied on social security data (Bituach Leumi) to ascertain deaths of, “695 Israeli civilians, including 36 children, as well as 373 security forces and 71 foreigners, giving a total of 1,139. This excludes five people, among them four Israelis, still listed as missing by the prime minister’s office.” It cited 250 taken hostage.  
  • On December 29, AJC Global Voice stated there were 1,300 killed and at least 236 taken hostage.

Obstacles to Determine the Scope of Deaths and Hostages Taken

The chaos and destruction in the communities attacked and at the Supernova music festival make it difficult to determine exact numbers and identities. Some victims were dismembered, mutilated, or burned to ashes in their homes and cars, requiring skilled archeologists to identify them along with search and rescue volunteers from the ZAKA organization, rabbis, and members of the Israeli Defense Forces. ““It is one thing to expose 2,000-year-old destruction remains, and quite another thing — heartrending and unfathomable — to carry out the present task searching for evidence of our sisters and brothers” in the devastated communities, the Israel Antiquities Authority said.

Archeologists dig through ashes.

Haaretz wrote, “Dr. Chen Kugel, head of Israel’s National Center of Forensic Medicine, offers a sobering insight into why, even when human remains are identified, it doesn’t always mean a missing person will be immediately and officially declared as dead. If a skull bone is brought to the forensic medical center, Kugel explains, “They ask me, ‘Is he dead? Or maybe he was only injured and they dragged him to Gaza?’ It’s 99.9 percent certain that he’s dead, because even if he survived it’s unlikely he received neurosurgical treatment in Gaza. But to sign a death certificate? My hand trembles.”

Kugel added, “There are people we don’t necessarily know about. There are foreign workers, some of whom are undocumented. It’s possible that no one reported them missing. There could be a volunteer from abroad who has not yet been reported, or a tourist who came to the festival. And if we don’t find someone, there are open questions: Are they in Gaza? Are they dead but their body still missing?”

Makeshift morgue at Shura military base near Ramle

Bureaucracy can also another obstacle. “Due to the magnitude and surprise nature of the atrocities of October 7, state and local bureaucracy (or the lack of it), and the geographical scope of the victims, there is no single entity in Israel in charge of identification of the dead and missing from October 7, and there is no central body handling the information,” wrote Haaretz, which, unable to rely on any one official source, sifted through, “numerous official sources, through personal and reporting contacts, and via family confirmations on social media.”

Some people are missing and may or may not have been victims. Times of Israel wrote on December 4, “An additional seven Israelis are currently listed as missing, with their families having received no information from authorities about whether they were killed or abducted. An unknown number of foreigners are similarly unaccounted for. An unknown number of bodies — in mid-November the number was around 100 — are still awaiting identification at the Shura pathological center near Tel Aviv, with difficulties in the process arising because of the state of the remains. Some of the remains are believed to belong to Hamas terrorists.”

An Agonizing Wait for Finality

Heartbreaking news of victims continues to trickle in. On December 25, Ynet News reported, “For 47 days, the Gabay family from Yokneam lived in hope that their beloved Shani was alive and held by Hamas terrorists. Only her distinct crescent moon-shaped necklace, found by chance, revealed the chilling fact that she had not been kidnapped at all but rather buried by mistake with another victim of the October 7 attack.”

“Peace activist Vivian Silver, a resident of Kibbutz Be’eri, was identified more than five weeks after October 7. After Silver was declared missing and then assumed taken hostage, forensic experts informed her family on November 13 that they had successfully identified her remains,” wrote Haaretz. “12-year-old Liel Hetzroni, her twin brother Yanai, her grandfather Avia, and her great-aunt Ayala, were all murdered in Be’eri. Avia was murdered in the family’s home, while Liel, Yanai and Ayala were taken hostage by Hamas terrorists in another family’s safe room with 12 other people. Liel’s remains were identified by archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority a few days after her family decided to have a farewell ceremony for her instead of a funeral.”

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