An outdoor concert and dance party in a rural area near the Gaza-Israel border turned into tragedy Saturday, when many attendees were killed or taken hostage by Hamas militants from the Gaza Strip, adding to hundreds of Israeli casualties in the unprecedented attack.
About 260 bodies were recovered from the festival grounds, though it’s expected the toll will rise, a spokesperson for ZAKA, an Israeli non-governmental rescue and recovery organization, told multiple outlets Sunday.
The SuperNova Festival—which celebrated the Jewish holiday Sukkot—took place in the Negev Desert near Urim, a kibbutz about 13 miles from the Gaza Strip.
Attendees told CNN that once they heard the gunshots early Saturday morning they tried to flee, but cars were at a standstill and gunmen were still shooting, so some ran into nearby forests and hid.
One attendee described the scene to local media as “four-five hours of a horror movie” and another described hearing sirens before the gunshots started, saying there were gunmen in every direction shooting at the concert-goers.
One festival-goer called it a “battlefield,” telling Israeli newspaper Haaretz they saw gunmen firing from all directions and burnt-out cars on the street.
“Everyone just started running in all directions,” attendee Eliav Klein told NBC News, adding his friend jumped off a 25-foot cliff; Klein estimated there were thousands at the festival, though there is not yet an official count of attendees.
Some attendees were seen in social media videos being taken hostage by militants—CNN reported the details of a viral video in which an Israeli woman and her boyfriend were shown being kidnapped, and the woman’s family has since confirmed to BBC they believe she was taken hostage.
Jake Marlowe, a 26-year-old British man who was working security at the festival, is missing and hasn’t been heard from since Saturday, when he texted his mother about the attack, Sky News reported.
“We are doing the best we can to help the security forces, maintaining constant contact with them and are positioned in the area taking part in searches in order to locate the missing,” Nova Festival said in a Hebrew statement on social media translated by CNN, adding they “share the sorrow” of the missing and killed.
1,100. That’s at least how many Israeli and Palestinian people have died since Hamas fighters entered Israel on Saturday. The Israeli death toll is past 700, according to the Israel Foreign Ministry, and the Palestinian Ministry of Health said there were about 413 Palestinians who had been killed.
On Saturday, Gaza-based militant group Hamas launched an attack on Israel from air, land and sea, with militants crossing the Gaza Strip border into southern Israel while Hamas fired rockets toward Israeli cities, leading to one of the worst attacks on Israel in decades. The festival grounds were reportedly one of the first places gunmen attacked, capturing and killing civilians. Throughout Saturday night into Sunday, residents of Gaza faced Israeli airstrikes, while sirens to warn of potential attacks rang through the night in Israel. The Israeli military is widely expected to launch a large-scale counterattack on Gaza: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the scale of the attack “has never been seen in Israel,” and vowed to “take mighty vengeance for this black day.” Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif called the attack the “day of the greatest battle to end the last occupation on earth,” multiple outlets reported. Throughout Sunday, death and injury tolls have continued to rise and more information about hostages has been released, as well. Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, after Israeli forces withdrew from the occupied territory two years prior, and the narrow, densely populated coastal territory has remained under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade since then, with occasional flare-ups between Hamas and Israel’s military.