Assessing Claims That an IDF Helicopter Fired on and Killed Israelis on October 7

An illuminated tribute to those killed, injured and traumatised at the Nova music festival adorns Kochav HaYam complex on November 19, 2023, in Caesarea, Israel. According to Israeli authorities, 364 people were killed at the Nova music festival near Kibbutz Re'im on October 7, during a surprise invasion by Hamas militants who had crossed over from the Gaza Strip. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Allegations that an Israeli military helicopter killed civilians at the Nova music festival last month while attempting to kill Hamas terrorists have been revived in recent days following a new story in the Israeli press. The claims have notably been forwarded in a tweet from Washington Post investigative reporter Evan Hill, which was then screenshotted and shared in a viral Instagram post by Shaun King, a well-known American activist and writer.

“An Israeli police investigation has found that an IDF helicopter firing at Hamas fighters at the desert rave site also hit civilians, Haaretz reports,” Hill’s tweet says. “There is also a ‘growing assessment’ that Hamas didn’t know about the desert rave in advance.” King takes his own conclusions further. “Israeli police now admit that countless Israelis were murdered by ISRAEL on October 7th,” he writes.

A second viral Instagram post by Palestinian-American lawyer Ali Awad shows a screenshot of an article by The Cradle with a headline reading “Israel admits it killed its own at Nova music festival.”

The posts refer to a story published on November 18 by Haaretz, an Israeli publication, detailing the findings of a police investigation into the Nova music festival massacre. The story reports that Israeli police investigators determined that Hamas terrorists were not aware of the music festival in advance of their attacks. “According to a police source,”  the story reads, “the investigation also indicates that an IDF combat helicopter that arrived to the scene and fired at terrorists there apparently also hit some festival participants.”

This claim is based on a single unnamed source, however, and a statement from the Israel police strongly denied the assertions in the Haaretz story. The officials’ statement said the investigation focused only on the police response, and therefore did not make any assessments related to IDF activity at the Nova festival. “Contrary to the publication, the police investigation does not refer to the activity of the IDF forces, and therefore no indication was given of any harm to civilians caused by any aerial activity at the site,” a member of the Israel Police Spokesperson Unit said to The Dispatch Fact Check in a statement. “Particularly at this time, we call on the media to show responsibility in their reporting, and to base their journalism on official sources only,” the statement continues. An IDF spokesperson provided the same police statement when asked for comment.

The claim by the unnamed source in the Haaretz article that an IDF helicopter fired on Israelis cannot be independently verified but the claims by Shaun King and Ali Awad go well beyond what that source said. Israel has not admitted to killing “countless” Israelis.

Allegations that IDF forces killed festival-goers did not originate with the Haaretz story, but the claims there have been used to advance a number of pre-existing theories. A number of social media accounts have for weeks been sharing “leaked footage” of an IDF helicopter supposedly firing upon Israeli civilians, using this information as evidence that Israel has repeatedly lied about the events of October 7. Jackson Hinkle, a popular social media influencer known for posting misinformation and anti-Israel content, recently reposted this footage suggesting it confirmed the accusations.

This footage was not leaked, however, and instead originates from an October 9 post on X by the IDF showing attacks by Israel’s air force on Hamas terrorists in Gaza.

GeoConfirmed, an open source intelligence group specializing in geolocation, later determined that the footage was not related to the Nova festival, and an in-depth fact check published on November 17 by PolitiFact labeled the claims surrounding the footage as false.

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