- The war between Israel and Hamas has claimed at least 5,100 lives, and is expected to escalate.
- Over 1 million Palestinians have fled their homes, as Israel prepares for an expected ground invasion of Gaza.
- President Biden and Philly-area leaders have largely stood behind Israel.
- Here’s why Hamas and Israel reached this moment now — and what comes next.
A survivor of the deadly Hamas attack on an Israeli music festival that left at least 260 people dead addressed the Jewish Priorities Conference in Philadelphia on Sunday.
Hamas fired rockets from the Gaza Strip and stormed the Supernova festival not far from the area during a surprise attack on the Jewish Sabbath and the Simchat Torah holiday, taking hostages as well. Members of Hamas stormed the festival grounds on land and through the air.
Natalie Sanandaji appeared virtually at the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History during a Q&A session with Dan Raviv, recounting her close brushes with death while making her escape.
“Something I want people to try to grasp and understand is that we were at a music festival … Try to imagine a music festival happening anywhere else in the world and suddenly rockets are being intercepted over kids’ heads, and their reaction is this, ‘It’s normal,’” Sanandaji said. ‘”It happens. It’s because of the area that we’re in. It’ll probably just be a few, it’ll pass and the party will continue.”
Festival security told attendees to evacuate. Sanandaji and many others attempted to leave in their cars. She went to use a bathroom by the festival exit before they departed.
“A few days ago, a video had surfaced of the terrorists just shooting at all the bathrooms trying to kill anyone who was hiding inside,” Sanandaji said. “That was probably one of the hardest videos for me to grasp and to watch because I really realized how close I was to being in those bathrooms when they were there. I was there moments before.”
People fleeing the festival were eventually advised to ditch their vehicles and proceed on foot as traffic jams escalated in the area.
“As we were running, we came across some young people hiding in a ditch and they had asked us to come in and hide with them,” Sanandaji said. “And we almost did until one of my friends said ‘No, this is a bad idea. If the terrorists come from above us, we’ve nowhere to run. We’re sitting ducks.’ So we continued to run instead of hiding in the ditch and we later found out that the kids who stayed back and hid were all shot and killed.”
Sanandaji and her friends ran into an Israeli policeman, who guided them to a safe area. After running for four hours, they sat under a tree with hundreds of others getting shade from the sun. They noticed a white pickup truck headed in their direction, believing it was a terrorist coming to kill them, and accepted their fate.
“Thankfully for us it wasn’t a terrorist,” Sanandaji said. “It was a man from the town of Patish who had left the safety of his town and drove towards all of this to save innocent lives. As soon as he dropped us off in his town, he turned around and went right back risking his life all over again to save more innocent lives. And if it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t be here today … Never got his name.”
On Oct. 7, Hamas launched a surprise attack on civilian and Israeli military targets from the Gaza Strip and took hostages, a day after the 50th anniversary of the start of the Yom Kippur War. Hamas said it has more than 200 hostages, according to Reuters.
Israel has conducted hundreds of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip since the attacks started. The region has since been under siege by Israel, cutting off electricity and barring the entry of fuel, food, water, medicine, and more into the territory. UN Human Rights chief Volker Türk said the “sieges” were illegal under international law.
The conflict has resulted in a series of reactions and demonstrations throughout the Delaware Valley.
Hundreds of Philadelphia high school students marched around City Hall on Friday in support of Palestinians calling for a ceasefire. On Thursday, City Council President Darrell Clarke suspended public comment on a resolution condemning Hamas as tensions rose within Council chambers.
On Oct. 12, more than 160 people gathered outside of WHYY’s studio on Independence Mall Thursday afternoon to protest the news coverage of Palestinian people in the escalated conflict between Israel and Hamas. About 5,000 people marched from City Hall to Independence Hall Oct. 16 to show solidarity with the Israeli victims of the Hamas attacks.
The Associated Press reports more than 1,400 people have been killed in Israel since the war began, mostly civilians killed in the initial Hamas assault. The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza says over 4,300 Palestinians have been killed.
According to the BBC, 31 Americans have been killed in the attacks. New Jersey native Laor Abramov was among those who perished, according to our news partner 6ABC.
Multiple Delaware Valley leaders voiced their support for Israel following the attack.