Attackers laughed as they raped and murdered a woman in

Attackers laughed as they raped and murdered a woman in Israel on October 7, a witness says – CNN

Editor's Note: This story contains graphic and disturbing accounts of sexual violence.


Five men got out of the van and captured a woman, ripping off her clothes and forming a circle around her. One raped her and killed her with a knife. Then he raped her again, said Raz Cohen, a survivor of Hamas' murderous rampage in Israel on Oct. 7.

Cohen had gone to the Nova music festival in the desert of southern Israel to be with Maya, his girlfriend of two months. She tried to escape with another friend and was killed, he said. Cohen saw another young woman shot in the head while hiding in a bush – the spot where he witnessed the rape, he told CNN.

Israeli police are documenting cases of rape and sexual violence committed as Hamas militants crossed into Israel from the Gaza Strip and attacked music festivals and kibbutz communities near the border. About 1,200 people were killed and more than 200 taken hostage in the attacks, which drew worldwide condemnation and prompted a massive military response from Israel. According to the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health, Israel's subsequent war against Hamas in Gaza has left more than 22,000 Palestinians dead.

But the United Nations and human rights organizations have been slow to condemn reports of rape and mutilation of Israelis – mostly girls and women, but also men. And Hamas denied that its fighters committed sexual violence during the coordinated attacks.

The U.N. agency UN Women released a statement in December condemning the attacks and saying it was “concerned by the numerous reports of gender-based atrocities and sexual violence during these attacks.”

Ronen Zvulun/Portal/File

Festival goers' personal belongings are seen at the site of an attack on the Nova festival by Hamas gunmen from Gaza, near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip. This photo was taken days after the attack.

“That’s a fact,” Cohen said. “It’s what happened.”

Cohen said a white van pulled up about 30 yards from his hiding place and five men in plain clothes got out.

“They caught a girl and started taking her clothes off,” he said. “After they took off her clothes, one of them started raping her. It was about 40 seconds. After raping her, he takes a knife and kills her, murdering her. After he did it, he continued to rape the corpse.”

The other men around the victim didn't seem angry, Cohen said.

“They’re always laughing. I think it was for fun. They murdered a lot of people for fun.”

Along with the sounds of apparent hilarity, Cohen previously told The New York Times he could remember the terror of the woman he saw killed. “I still remember her voice, screams without words,” he said.

After the rape, Cohen told CNN he saw the group go after another woman and a man. He said they were killed with knives and an axe.

CNN cannot independently verify Cohen's account. A CNN investigation and analysis of videos and testimonies from the Nova festival shows how the rave turned into a bloodbath.

Cohen, 24, says he ran across the open desert field to escape the mass arrival of attackers. He described feeling like he was on a shooting range – there was no place to hide and the bullets were coming from left, right and behind.

“I was walking in an open field and was very close to a girl,” he said. “As I passed her…I heard her fall to the ground. I look back… and I saw that she was shot in the head… I looked at the girl, but I can't help her, so I keep running away until I get to the bush.”

Cohen had to wait nine hours in the bush for rescuers to arrive, he said.


Raz Cohen went to the Nova music festival in the desert in southern Israel to be with his girlfriend.

In November, Israeli Police Commissioner Dudi Katz said officers had already collected more than 1,000 statements and more than 60,000 video clips related to the attacks, including several reports from people who reported raping women.

He added that investigators did not have first-hand witness accounts and it was not clear whether rape victims survived.

Rami Shmuel, an organizer of the music festival where Cohen attended, previously said he saw female victims without clothes as he fled and had no doubts about what happened.

“Their legs were stretched out and some of them were slaughtered,” he told CNN.

A combat medic who did not want his name published told CNN he saw the bodies of two teenage girls at Kibbutz Be'eri and had no doubt that at least one of them had been raped.

“Her pants are pulled down to her knees and she has a gunshot wound to the back of her neck, near her head,” he said. “There is a puddle of blood around her head and there is semen residue on the lower part of her back.”

Cochav Elkayam-Levy, a human rights expert at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, formed a civilian commission with colleagues to document evidence of the attacks. She said she was determined not to overlook or forget the atrocities, especially because the victims were unable to speak for themselves.

“We will never know everything that happened to them,” Elkayam-Levy told CNN in November. “We know that most women who have been raped and sexually abused have also been murdered.”