A month after the terrorist attacks in Israel killed over 1,400 people and 241 were kidnapped, Matthew travelled to the country as part of a solidarity visit with Elnet. In the weeks since 7th October there have been fierce debates about the truth of what happened with some broadcasters refusing to identify Hamas as terrorists and claiming the attacks were in response to oppression of Palestinian people. Only four British Parliamentarians have undertaken the journey to witness first-hand the scenes of carnage and the aftermath of such violence.
Missiles continue to be fired at the Israeli population and upon landing in Tel Aviv, the airport’s missile alarm system was activated and all passengers, including Matthew, were directed to a bomb shelter. This continued to happen throughout the visit.
In addition to briefings with the Israeli Defence Force and the Police Service, Matthew met with friends and relatives of those who have been kidnapped and also the father of a girl who was murdered. One poignant discussion was held at the Ichilov Hospital with Yadin, a solider who was first to arrive at the Kfar Aza kibbutz. This conversation revealed how the terrorists systematically targeted people based upon their security status before locating other residents. Clearing the homes of terrorists took the IDF over nine hours, with Yadin shot four times and his military partner five times. This second soldier subsequently died next to Yadin as they were being transferred to hospital. In total over a hundred people were killed at the Kfar Aza location.
Matthew also visited this kibbutz, under two miles from the border with Gaza. Now deserted for fear of further attacks, every single house bears scars of the mass attack. It is believed that up to seventy Hamas terrorists entered and torched cars, forced entry to homes using rocket propelled grenades, killed family pets and indiscriminately murdered more than a hundred residents through brutal acts of beheadings, dismemberment and burning victims alive. Wanting the world to see what they were doing, many terrorists carried GoPros to record themselves shooting people through the head before burning their bodies. These videos and photographs at the site were shown to Matthew but are too horrific to describe.
The distressing practical consequence of such a mass killing is that mortuary space is overwhelmed. Matthew visited the Shura Military Base, south of Tel Aviv, for an explanation on how the deceased were cared for. While many funerals have occurred there remain over 200 bodies unaccounted for. Some of these cannot be individually identified as people were burnt both singularly and in groups, preventing the extraction of DNA. Body parts have also been kept in storage as the search continues to find further remains or identify the person as having been kidnapped or missing.
Matthew said: “This visit and viewing the images of the atrocities perpetrated were incredibly harrowing but I believe people need to bear witness to what happened. As with the Holocaust, there are people saying the attacks on 7th October never happened or were fabricated by Israel. But it is not possible to replicate the smell of the dead bodies I looked upon in Shura with the same stench that lingers in the homes at Kfar Aza.
"I am aware that some people believe the events in Israel don’t justify what is happening in Gaza. It goes without saying, every civilian death in Gaza is tragic but people are being used as human shields by Hamas. It cannot be denied that no moral equivalence exists between the independent, sovereign and democratic state of Israel with a bunch of terrorist criminals called Hamas. It is impossible for a ceasefire to be declared between two such entities - especially as Hamas don’t want one. There is huge regret for the deaths of children in Gaza - but in recent days there have been at least 14 cases of teachers at UNRWA schools celebrating the October 7 massacre.
"The international community has to support Israel’s right to defend itself and remove Hamas. Only that will give the people of Israel security and - as importantly - Palestinians freedom.”