'I saw a girl who was raped and set on fire': Chilling testimony from the scene of the music festival massacre

Eden Wessely witnessed the aftermath of the Nova party massacre, and her testimony and photographs - including 'The Woman in the black dress' - are a first-hand account of the sexual crimes committed by Hamas

Nina Fox |
On October 7, Eden Wessely set out to look for her best friend, who had been at the Nova party in Re’im and from whom nobody had heard. She had no idea of the horrors she would find instead. (Warning: Wessely’s descriptions may be painful to read.)
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Eden returned without her friend, who had been kidnapped and has been held captive in Gaza ever since. Her photographs, however, have been used to document the atrocities of that day.
“There were horrific scenes, difficult to take in,” she told Ynet. “I saw hundreds of corpses, and a girl who had been raped and [her body] burned. Things that human eyes have difficulty looking at.”
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עדן וסלי
עדן וסלי
Eden Wesseley
Wessely took photos of what she saw, including of the “Woman in the black dress,” which was published by The New York Times in the paper’s article on the sexual depravities committed by Hamas terrorists. The newspaper piece was based, inter alia, on Wessely’s testimony.
“We are childhood friends,” says Wessely, 30, an auto mechanic by profession, of her friend still held in captivity. “She didn’t tell anyone she was going to the party. She was supposed to go out with me that Friday night, but in the end she went to that party.
“I went out that night and was still awake when the sirens started going off. I was not yet aware that she was in any danger. She texted ‘I’ve been shot’ to another friend. I went to see her mother on Saturday night. She began to cry, saying ‘I want my daughter back.’
“I decided to go and look for her,” Wessely recalls. “Everyone told me not to go since there were terrorists still at large in the area. But I went, with three other friends, to the location she had sent us on Route 232.
“There were horrible scenes – hundreds of bodies, bodies of people half-in and half-out of cars, body parts scattered along the road. No one had come for them yet. We looked for my friend, but to my chagrin, there were only corpses along the highway. We thought we might be able to find a lead as to what happened to her, so we kept on searching.
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עדן וסלי ועמית בוסקילה
עדן וסלי ועמית בוסקילה
Eden Wesseley with Amit Bouskila
“Suddenly, I spotted the bodies of a man and a woman. I asked my friends to stop. It looked as though she had been raped, murdered, and set afire. They shot her and also burned her body. Her hand was covering her face, she had a gunshot wound on the cheek and she had no underpants on. They had lifted her dress, raped her, and afterward torched her. It is not a sight that human eyes can bear. The people I was with grew very distressed and wanted to return home.”
Wessely did not give up and traveled back to the site of the massacre every day to look for her friend. Along the way, she helped families of the killed and missing obtain information about their loved ones.
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מתחם זיהוי הגופות "שורה" ברמלה לאחר הטבח בדרום
מתחם זיהוי הגופות "שורה" ברמלה לאחר הטבח בדרום
The Shura camp where bodies of the victims of the Hamas massacre were being identified
(Photo: Yair Sagi)
“I went there every day and posted pictures of people on social media,” Wessely recounts. “My photos enabled people to identify their loved ones who had been murdered. I received hundreds of messages from families looking for their relatives.”
This was not the first time Wessely was confronted with this kind of uncertainty. Ten years ago, she went searching for her missing father, who was found dead after four years.
“What I went through with my father reminds me of what I am feeling now,” she says concerning her friend. “We understood she had been kidnapped, but we still knew nothing, whether she was alive or dead. None of the other captives had seen her.

“I have the same feeling now that I had with my father. It is impossible to explain it. I could not sleep for days. I feel like I have been struck by lightning twice. She is part of me. We grew up together. We have been through a lot together.
“I was having nightmares and flashbacks. Perhaps because I was repressing, perhaps because I am dealing with this on my own.”
Now she is waiting for her friend to be freed. “I have hope that she will come back alive,” Wessely concludes. “She is a fighter. She is well-loved, and she will make the terrorists love her as well. She is a survivor, and I believe she will be returned alive. I can not imagine any other possibility.”
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