Israeli rescue agency Zaka has confirmed that the bodies of 260 people have been recovered from the site of a psytrance festival, following an attack on southern Israel by Hamas militants on October 7.
More people are missing, with some attendees reportedly taken as hostages. Around 3,500 people attended the festival.
The attack began at around 6:30AM on Saturday morning, with CNN reporting it began with an initial flurry of rockets before gunmen arrived in vehicles and opened fire on the attendees around 30 minutes later.
The event called Supernova was presented by Tribe Of Nova. It was an Israeli edition of the Universo Parallelo festival, which began in Brazil more than 23 years ago.
Supernova was taking place to celebrate the Jewish harvest festival and holiday of Sukkot. It was held in the Negev desert near the Re’im kibbutz in southern Israel, around three miles from the Gaza-Israel barrier, a border fence Israel first constructed around the Palestinian territory of Gaza in 1994 and has since upgraded.
The festival’s website said it embodies values of “free love and spirit, environmental preservation, appreciation of rare natural values”.
It had three stages and a line-up of local and international psytrance DJs, including British artist Martin Freeland AKA Man With No Name. Other international artists came from France, Switzerland, Germany, Mexico, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden, Italy and India.
Freeland’s manager Raz Gaster, who was present at the festival, shared an eyewitness account with Billboard.
He said: “Around 6:30 in the morning we started hearing explosions. We went out of the backstage and we saw a full bombardment everywhere. It was hundreds of rockets and mortars flying from everywhere and explosions all around us.”
After around 5 to 10 minutes, he says security at the event began to encourage attendees to flee.
Gaster added: “The moment the policemen said ‘go now,’ I ran. I didn’t wait, because we know it’s a rocket attack. You need to act quick.
“My instinct told me don’t stop for shelter, just drive… We drove so fast we didn’t even know what was happening.
“People were hiding in ditches, hiding in bushes, hiding in the woods, hiding wherever you can think of. We were getting horrible messages from friends saying, ‘Please help us, they are shooting people next to us.'”
The Guardian reports that some attendees initially thought that warning sirens were part of the trance music and did not realise an attack had begun until the rockets and gunfire started.
Drone footage of the aftermath of the event shared on Telegram shows destruction, with many burned out vehicles.
More video footage just as the attack was starting shows what appears to be Hamas militants paragliding and rockets arcing through the sky in the background, as well as people fleeing through the desert by foot and in cars.
Another video shows a woman identified as 25-year-old Noa Argamani being kidnapped along with her boyfriend Avinatan Or. Another video from a later time reportedly shows Argamani being held captive in Gaza.
A 26-year-old British man named Jake Marlowe, who was working as part of the festival’s security team, is among the missing.
One survivor Adam Barel told Haaretz that attendees of the festival were aware that rocket fire in the area the festival was taking place was a possibility, with its proximity to the Hamas-governed Gaza, but the gunfire was a shock.
Tribe Of Nova has shared a link to file a report on missing people online, alongside a statement saying: “Tribe and Nova Production [is] shocked and pained.
“We support and participate in the grief of the families of the missing and murdered.
“We are doing everything we can to assist the security forces, we are in continuous contact with them and we are located in the area with scans and searches in order to locate the missing.”
Universo Paralello has shared a statement on Instagram, writing: “Once again, we are appalled, shocked and frightened by everything that happened and we explicitly leave our revolt and our feelings to the victims of this heinous attack.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has responded by declaring Israel is “at war”, with Israeli airstrikes since targeting buildings such as apartment blocks, homes and a mosque in Gaza, killing more than 400 people, including 20 children.