An electronic music festival was among the sites in Israel attacked during this weekend’s deadly incursion by the militant Islamic organization Hamas out of the Gaza Strip, the densely populated Palestinian territory that came under Hamas control in 2006 and has been under military blockade by Israel and Egypt since 2007. Israel’s rescue service ZAKA on Monday said paramedics had recovered at least 260 dead bodies at the festival site, though that toll is likely to rise as rescue teams continue to clear the area. Others were reportedly taken hostage by the attackers and brought back to Gaza.

The event, presented by Tribe of Nova, took place in the Negev Desert near Kibbutz Re’im, a secular commune three miles from the Gaza border whose name translates to “friends.” Promoted as the first Israeli offshoot of long-running Brazilian psy-trance festival Universo Paralello and billed as SUPERNOVA, it coincided with the end of Sukkot, the Jewish holiday that celebrates the harvest and holds spiritual importance to Jews in regard to its themes of eschewing materialism in favor of spirituality and hospitality.

In the initial promotional materials for the event, rendered chilling in the aftermath of the bloody attack, organizers noted, the “central driving force” behind Universo Paralello is “a set of fundamental and important human values: Free love and spirit; environmental preservation; appreciation of rare natural values that the festival embodies. … The meaning of the words ‘Universo Paralello’ is ‘Parallel Universe’ in Portuguese, the native language of the land of Samba, from which the festival originates. The word ‘Supernova’ refers to the explosion of a massive star, causing an immense burst of light in galactic terms.”

The event description continued, “We can one [sic] imagine when these concepts intertwine during the upcoming Sukkot holiday? We assume that you can already imagine the result… (Or perhaps not?).”

The music festival was among the first targets for Hamas militants as they launched their unprecedented attack on Israel. Just after 6:30 a.m., the attacks began with a barrage of missiles, which attendees watched fly over the festival as music cut out and a warning siren sounded. Soon after, Hamas gunmen swept through the festival site by foot, truck, motorcycle, paraglider, and ATV, shooting into the crowd and grabbing hostages as disoriented festival attendees scrambled for cover.

Per the Washington Post, “Festivalgoers described how the gunmen blocked roads, ambushed escaping cars and scoured the area looking for people to kidnap.” As The Associated Press reported, for over six hours, concert attendees hid without help from the Israeli army as Hamas militants sprayed automatic gunfire and threw grenades.

“We were hiding and running, hiding and running, in an open field, the worst place you could possibly be in that situation,” Arik Nani from Tel Aviv, who had gone to the party to celebrate his 26th birthday, told The Associated Press. “For a country where everyone in these circles knows everyone, this is a trauma like I could never imagine.”

“The music stopped and sirens went on. Rockets started covering the sky and we realized we have to run,” wrote Millet Ben Haim, 27, who attended the festival with a group of friends, in an Instagram reel alongside video of the scene. “Almost everybody was really waisted [sic] and on many kind of drugs and as the person who never do drugs I took the car keys from a friend I met that night and started driving like crazy trying to escape. We went through a main road but after a minute someone started screaming that terrorists are shooting people there and so I had to make a u turn asap. But after two minutes to the other direction we realized that there are more terrorists there as well. We just heard thoes shootings all the time and didn’t know were [sic] to go. People who stayed at the party started getting kidnapped or killed and we knew we have to run, but where to??

“We started running towards the fields,” she continued, “But it didn’t matter we’re [sic] we ran to – terrorist waited for us. After almost three hours of running like crazy we realized that there is no escape they are everywhere. I felt so week [sic] and so scared and I knew I can’t run anymore and I also don’t have where to anyway. So we hid under a tree in bushes and covered ourselves with leaves. We didn’t get good signal and the police didn’t answer us because at the same time the terrorists were taking over the villages in the area and kidnapping … civilians.” Millet explained that she hid silently in the bushes for seven hours until she was rescued by a local resident who was driving through the area looking for survivors.

“The Nova tribe is shocked and pained. We support and participate in the grief of the families of the missing and murdered,” the event’s organizers wrote in a statement on social media, translated from Hebrew. “We are doing everything we can to assist the security forces, standing by. They are in continuous contact and are located in the field during scans and searches in order to locate the missing.”

“We are full of hope and pray that good news will come to us and to you soon. In moments like these, it is important that we be strong and united, full faith, we will support each other and be there for anyone who needs it.” The event has since made its Instagram page private.

Raz Gaster, who manages several of the DJs scheduled to play the event, described the “chaos and terror” of the scene in an interview with Billboard.

“Around 6:30 in the morning we started hearing explosions,” Gaster said. “We went out of the backstage and we saw a full bombardment everywhere. It was hundreds of rockets and mortars flying from everywhere and explosions all around us.” When the police officers stationed at the festival told attendees to leave the site, he and three other men, including Universo Parallelo co-founder Juarez Petrillo, were able to quickly make it to his car and drive to a production house they had rented roughly 30 kilometers from the site.

The production house quickly became a “command center” of sorts, he explained. People still on-site would send their locations to the festival production team, who would in turn notify the owner of the festival so he could attempt to find them. “It was 24 hours of working to find as many people as we could and get as many signs of life as we could,” he added.

As a group of between 15–20 people gathered at the production villa, Gaster continued, they “started seeing videos on social media of hostages and people we know that are kidnapped and bodies we could recognize [as] our friends. Many friends are still missing, and we still don’t know where they are.” He estimated that hundreds of attendees may still be unaccounted for.

The families of many festival attendees are still awaiting word from their loved ones following the attack. Per The Washington Post, “Relatives searching for missing people at a nearby intersection said more than a thousand people were at the event when the militants attacked. Some festivalgoers estimated the true figure was closer to 3,000 or 4,000.”

Noa Argamani, 25, was at the festival with her boyfriend, Avinatan Or. A video making the rounds online appears to show Argamani and Or being abducted by Hamas soldiers. Per NBC News, “She is seen in a video pleading for mercy as she’s taken away on a motorcycle. In the same video, her boyfriend is restrained by another group of militants, helplessly looking at Argamani as she is dragged away.”

The family of 22-year-old attendee Shani Louk has still had not heard from her, but saw her in a video posted online. “We recognized her by the tattoos, and she has long dreadlocks,” Tom Weintraub Louk, her cousin, told The Washington Post. “In the video,” the Post noted, “the woman is facedown in the bed of the truck with four militants, apparently being paraded through Gaza. One holds her hair while another raises a gun in the air and shouts, ‘Allahu akbar!’ A crowd follows the truck cheering. A boy spits in her hair.”

“We are a peaceful community, we are a musical community, we do it for the creation of fun,” Gaster said. “We only wanted to dance and have a good time and enjoy music together, and it turned into a nightmare.”

The festival was one of many sites attacked in the large-scale Hamas incursion into Israel over the weekend. Per The New York Times, “More people died in Israel in a single day than any other day since Israel became a state, according to Israel’s foreign press office. Around 700 Israelis had died since attacks began on Saturday, according to Israel’s foreign ministry as of 10:20 p.m. local time on Sunday, while the Gaza Health Ministry said at least 413 Palestinians had been killed” by that time in Israeli counter-strikes.

Israel’s military was quick to mobilize following the attacks, launching a series of retaliatory missile strikes on various locations in Gaza. The Israeli military has said it struck more than 500 targets in Gaza from Sunday night into Monday. Some 100,000 Israeli reservists were reportedly mobilized as battles with Hamas militants continued into Monday, portending further military action in the coming days.

This is a developing story.

Editor’s note: If you are learning about these attacks via this article, we urge you to seek out additional reporting on the ongoing violence in Israel and Palestine via other sources. We are heartbroken by this news and devastated by the thought of such horrors taking place at a festival—the sort of gathering we know well as a peaceful space for togetherness and artistic expression—but the scope and significance of these attacks extend far beyond this live music event. Our hearts are with any and all victims of violence.