Hamas seems to have intentionally adopted a new terror tactic during its devastating attack on Israeli communities on October 7 — that of using the social media accounts of their victims to spread fear and confusion among their families and friends as the killings and abductions unfolded.
In a report Tuesday, The New York Times followed multiple instances in which terrorists who broke into homes in towns and kibbutz communities took control of residents’ phones. In some cases, they then livestreamed their abuse of victims. In others, they posted messages or media to their social media accounts or called relatives to taunt them.
In one case, a teenage hostage was filmed by terrorists being forced to walk around homes in his community and calling on neighbors to come out as it was safe, NYT reported.
In another, a family’s ordeal was live-streamed to their Facebook account as parents held at gunpoint attempted to calm their two sobbing children, while the kids asked about an older daughter who had been shot dead in another room.
The US newspaper reported on other incidents in which Palestinian terrorists logged into victims’ WhatsApp groups, Instagram accounts and Facebook groups even days after the attacks to post threats and other belligerent messages.
Hamas’s use of social media to further spread terror “weaponizes social media in a way I don’t think we’ve seen before,” Thomas Rid, professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University, told the NYT. “We are not psychologically prepared for this.”
Keren de Via, a friend of the family whose captivity was streamed live on Facebook, said she was surprised when a notification of a livestream appeared on their account.
“I felt maybe hopeful, for a second — and then confused,” she said. “Then just terror.”
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. How could we watch them terrorize the family like this? How could I watch this on Facebook?”
The children and mother were eventually rescued, while the father was abducted to Gaza.
Shir Matan, whose cousin is also believed to have been abducted, told the paper that hours after the attack began, odd short videos appeared on her relative’s Instagram account.
“There were voices in Arabic, and just feet shuffling,” Matan said. “Then someone said, in Arabic, ‘Slut.’” The video was deleted shortly thereafter.
Others described seeing the Arabic word for “death” appear in the Facebook status of missing individuals.
Some have said they received mocking calls from the terrorists.
And in at least one case, the terrorists livestreamed their victim after she had been killed, terrorizing multiple family members.
Mor Bayder wrote on Facebook a day after the onslaught about her grandmother, Bracha: “At 7 a.m., I saw the nightmare of my life. A terrorist broke into her home, murdered her, took her phone, photographed the horror, and posted it on her Facebook account. That’s how we found out.”
The house in Nir Oz was later burned to the ground.
Israel declared war on Hamas after more than 1,500 terrorists broke through the fortified Gaza border on October 7 and murdered some 1,300 people, most of them civilians, including babies, children and the elderly. Many were murdered in their homes and some 260 were massacred at an outdoor music festival.
The terrorists also kidnapped at least 199 people of all ages to the Strip and have since fired more than 5,000 rockets at Israeli cities.
Israel has responded with large-scale airstrikes on Hamas targets, killing over 3,000 people in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. However, some of the Palestinian deaths also appear to have been caused by by Hamas and Islamic Jihad rockets falling short in the Strip.
Israel has said its forces also killed some 1,500 terrorists who infiltrated into its territory to carry out the brutal onslaught.