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 THE SUPER NOVA FESTIVAL 

OCTOBER 7

On October 7, 2023, Hamas initiated a surprise attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip. As part of the attack, 364 civilians were killed and many more wounded by Hamas at the Supernova Sukkot Gathering, an open-air Xmusic festival during the Jewish holiday of Shemini Atzeret near kibbutz Re'im. At least 40 hostages were also taken. This mass killing had the largest number of casualties out of a number of massacres targeting Israeli civilians in villages adjacent to the Gaza Strip, that occurred as part of the 7 October attack, alongside those at the moshavim of Netiv HaAsara, Be'eri, Kfar Aza, Nir Oz and Holit. At 6:30 am around sunrise, rockets were noticed in the sky. Around 7:00 am, a siren warned of an incoming rocket attack, prompting festivalgoers to flee. Subsequently, armed militants, dressed in military attire and using motorcycles, trucks and powered paragliders, surrounded the festival grounds and indiscriminately fired on individuals attempting to escape. Attendees seeking refuge in nearby locations, such as bomb shelters, bushes, and orchards, were killed while in hiding. Those who reached the road and parking were trapped in a traffic jam as militants fired at vehicles. The militants executed some wounded individuals at point-blank range as they crouched on the ground. The details of the whereabouts and condition of the hostages are not publicly known. The massacre at the festival was the largest terror attack in Israel's history, and the worst Israeli civilian massacre ever.

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Gathering and festivities

Supernova Sukkot Gathering was a weekend-long outdoor trance music festival that began on 6 October 2023 and was produced by an organizer called Nova (also referred to as Tribe of Nova). It was the Israeli edition (pre-festival event) of Universo Paralello, a psytrance festival started 23 years prior in Bahia, Brazil. It took place in the western Negev desert, approximately 5 km (3.1 mi) from the Gaza–Israel barrier, near kibbutz Re'im. The line-up included artists well-known in the psytrance scene, such as Astral Projection and Man With No Name. The organizers switched to the site only two days before, after the original location in southern Israel did not work out. Scheduled to coincide with Jewish holidays: the final day of Sukkot (6 October) and Simchat Torah (7 October), the rave was billed as a celebration of "friends, love and infinite freedom". The festival site had three stages, a camping zone, and an area with a bar and food. Attendees described the crowd as mostly consisting of Israelis of ages 20–40 from across the country. Attendance was reported to be 3,500 but figures vary. Security guards and police were present at the festival.

Hamas' assault

The festival was one of the first targets of Hamas' surprise attack against Israel in the early morning hours of 7 October 2023. Israeli security services investigations have found it unlikely that Hamas had advanced knowledge of the festival, citing, among other evidence, that the festival had been planned to run until 6 October, and was only recently extended to 7 October. One attendee stated that after cutting the electricity, a group of approximately 50 Hamas gunmen arrived in vans and sprayed gunfire in all directions. Some of the Hamas gunmen who attacked the festival infiltrated Israel via motorised paragliders, arriving around 6:30 am. As festival attendees fled in panic, jeeps filled with gunmen began firing at the escaping cars. Gunmen also blockaded roads. The open terrain left few places to hide. Many attendees who hid in the trees were murdered as militants methodically shot them. Others who hid in bushes and orchards managed to survive. The massacre took place amid a rocket siren, signalling a barrage of rockets fired into Israel. Independently verified drone footage from the site showed dozens of scorched, burnt cars and skid marks. Footage of the attack, posted on a Telegram channel, included graphic depictions of murder and hostage-taking. Upon their return to Gaza City, Hamas members paraded a body of a woman in the back of a pickup truck – Shani Louk, a 22-year-old German-Israeli national. In one of the first viral videos to emerge from the attack, her body is shown clad only in underwear, while the gunmen are exclaiming "Allahu Akbar"; they were surrounded by cheering residents, some of whom spat on the body. The Hamas militants kidnapped an initially unknown number of participants, with later reports defining the number of kidnapped people to be at 40; videos on social media showed them being seized. The abducted concertgoers were taken to the Gaza Strip, where some were filmed in Hamas propaganda videos. Relatives and friends of the missing searched for information about the missing. Those abducted by Hamas militants included a British man, and 25-year-old Israeli woman Noa Argamani. Three dual Brazilian-Israeli nationals who had attended the festival were also missing. During the massacre, according to survivor and emergency responder testimony, Hamas militants raped women attendees. According to survivor testimony released by Lahav 433, a young woman was gang raped by Hamas militants before being murdered. The testimony was published in Hebrew- and English-language Israeli news outlets. According to Haaretz police reporter Josh Breiner, ZAKA emergency response personnel found naked women with injuries and their genitals mutilated, with others found bound and naked below their waists. The Israel Defense Forces have not verified the claims.

Casualties

Photographs from the aftermath of the attack show dozens of bodies on the festival grounds, including a badly-burned body bound by cable ties. ZAKA, Israel's volunteer community emergency response group, reported retrieving at least 260 bodies from the party grounds. The death toll was expected to rise, as other paramedic organisations also responded to the scene. The final figure communicated by police on 17 November was 364 dead, including 17 police officers, and 40 abducted. One of those killed was a British man serving in the Israeli military. Lior Asulin, a retired football striker who had played for Hapoel Tel Aviv Football Club, was also among those killed in the massacre. Journalists Shai Regev and Ayelet Arnin, who worked for the newspaper Maariv and public broadcaster Kan respectively, were also killed in the attack. The event's organisers, twins Osher Vaknin and Michael Vaknin, were killed in the attack as well.

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