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Hamas attack at music festival led to chaos and frantic attempts to escape or hide

JERUSALEM (AP) — The outdoor Tribe of Nova music festival was meant to be an all-night dance party in a rural area near the Gaza-Israel border, where thousand of young people would celebrate the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

But it became a site of deadly chaos when Hamas militants attacked the festival in the desert area early Saturday, killing an estimated 260 people. Terrified revelers tried to run and hide from the gunfire, according to an Israeli rescue organization, news outlets and accounts on social media.

The Israeli rescue service Zaka said paramedics have removed about 260 bodies from the music festival, with the figure expected to rise as teams continue working to clear the area. Festival organizers said in a statement on social media they were assisting security forces to help locate missing people who attended the event.

The attack on the music festival was part of the larger assault on Israel by Hamas fighters who blew through a fortified border fence in an unprecedented surprise attack that began Saturday.

Video posted to social media from the music festival showed a young woman being abducted by men on a motorbike as she cried for help. Another man nearby was led away with his hands behind his back. A separate video showed dozens of panicked festival-goers running through a field, trying to get into their cars, as gunshots rung out.

Festival attendee Shoam Gueta told NBC News that he fled the chaos with a group of 20 people, hiding in the bushes for almost six hours, urging people to remain silent and in place while the attack unfolded. He told the outlet that he saw people being shot as they tried to take cover and that he saw a woman cut with a knife.

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“We saw terrorists killing people, burning cars, shouting everywhere,” Gueta told NBC News. “If you just say something, if you make any noise, you’ll be murdered.”