The rockets began around 6:30 a.m., Tal Gibly told CNN. Thirty minutes later, she and hundreds of others attending an Israeli music festival were running as Gaza militants fired at them.
The Nova Festival in a rural farmland area near the Gaza-Israel border was just one of multiple locations hit on Saturday morning by the most sustained and coordinated assault inside Israel ever carried out by Hamas militants.
At least 260 bodies would later be found at the festival site, according to Israeli rescue service Zaka. Some attendees were taken hostage, seen in social media videos being seized by their armed captors.
The outdoor festival was supposed to be an all-night dance party, celebrating the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. But as dawn broke, Gibly said they began hearing sirens and rockets.
“We didn’t even have any place to hide because we were at [an] open space,” she told CNN. “Everyone got so panicked and started to take their stuff.”
Explosions can be heard in video taken by Gibly of her and friends walking through the quickly emptying concert grounds, roughly two miles from the border.
“Ima’le,” someone is heard saying, a common Israeli expression of fear or feeling startled.
Gibly and the others didn’t know it, but less than two miles away, Gaza militants had also begun attacking Israeli tanks and soldiers.
When attendees fled in their cars, Gibly said the roadways became clogged and no one could move. That’s when the gunshots began, she says.
In videos Gibly took, an Israeli military vehicle is seen driving against the flow of traffic as people try to make way for it. Someone outside the car be heard screaming: “Go! Go forward! Go forward!”
That’s when Gibly said she and her friends panicked, abandoned the car, and began running.Gibly told CNN she ran to the forest, and eventually got into another car driving past. She saw a number of dead and injured people on the sides of the road, but one scene in particular stuck with her: one concertgoer shot dead outside a van, and another dead in the vehicle’s passenger seat.
Gibly confirmed video obtained by CNN of the scene showed the two victims that she saw.
“It was so terrifying and we didn’t know where to drive to not meet those evil … people,” she said. “I have a lot of friends that got lost at the forest for a lot of hours and got shot like it was a range.”
Gibly is still trying to get in touch with her friends who were also at the concert. She says she doesn’t know if others survived, were taken prisoner, or worse.
The festival’s organizers are helping Israeli security forces locate missing attendees.