An Israeli official has said the government cannot confirm that babies were beheaded by Hamas attackers on Saturday, CNN has been told.
Reports that Israeli soldiers discovered babies that had been beheaded in the Kfar Aza kibbutz have been circulating on social and traditional media outlets around the world.
The claims appear to originate from reports by the Tel Aviv-based news channel i24, which said a soldier had “witnessed… bodies of babies with their heads cut off”near the Gaza border – but no Israeli officials have confirmed the claim.
Speaking to CNN, one official said today: “There have been cases of Hamas militants carrying out beheadings and other ISIS-style atrocities. However, we cannot confirm if the victims were men or women, soldiers or civilians, adults or children.”
US President Joe Biden is among those to have circulated the reports of beheadings, telling a roundtable with Jewish community leaders on Wednesday that he “never really thought that I would see… have confirmed pictures of terrorist beheading children.”
But a US administration official later clarified Biden’s remarks, telling CNN that neither Biden nor his aides had seen pictures or had received confirmed reports of children or infants having been beheaded by Hamas.
The official clarified that Biden was referring to public comments from media outlets and Israeli officials.
An IDF spokesman, Jonathan Conricus, later in the day said terrorists had likely carried out decapitations of babies in the Be’eri kibbutz.
“We got very very disturbing reports that came from the ground that there were babies that had been beheaded… I think we can now say with relative confidence that unfortunately this is what happened in Be’eri,” he said.
Israeli officials initially avoided discussing the specifics of how its citizens were killed. They instead likened Hamas’ brutality to that of ISIS, the Sunni terror group that beheaded captives and burned prisoners alive.
Hamas on Wednesday denied the allegations.
Izzat al-Risheq, a senior official and spokesperson for the Islamist militant group, said that the international media had “spread lies about our Palestinian people and the resistance claiming that members of the Palestinian resistance beheaded children and attacked women with no evidence to support such claims and lies.”
CNN has also visited the ransacked ruins of Kfar Aza on Tuesday and saw no evidence of beheaded youths.
Israeli officials have not released any photographs of the incident either, although that is not surprising given the graphic nature of the alleged incident.
“Because of the dignity of the dead, we do not speak about how they looked,” said Maj. Nir Dinar, an IDF spokesperson. “It’s a dead baby. Does it matter if it’s burning or decapitation?”