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Dozens of senators view harrowing video of Hamas attack on Israel

Israel has shown the 46-minute recording featuring raw video from Hamas to lawmakers, journalists and other groups around the world since Oct. 7.
Pictures of victims of the Nova music festival attack are displayed at the site near Kibbutz Re'im and Israel's border with Gaza on Nov. 28, 2023.
Pictures of victims of the Nova music festival attack are displayed Tuesday at the site near the Re'im kbbutz and Israel's border with Gaza.Spencer Platt / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of dozens of senators on Tuesday attended a closed-door viewing on Capitol Hill of video from the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., wiped away tears after they left the room where the video was shown. Many senators declined to comment when they left, asking for a moment to process what they had seen.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, however, reacted to the material, saying much of it was raw video captured from Hamas' body cameras and cellphones as the attack unfolded.

"We saw terrorists celebrating as they murdered children, as they murdered women, as they desecrated the bodies," Cruz said. "We saw them beheading bodies with knives. We heard audio of terrorists calling their parents, celebrating the people they murdered. There is a level of evil and hate and depravity that defies words, and it is astonishing that there are still some in America and across the globe who deny these atrocities occurred."

Some of the other senators who attended included Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who did not give a morning floor speech Tuesday like he normally does.

He told reporters later in the day that he had not delivered remarks because he was so taken aback after having watched the video.

“It was jarring and harrowing. It shook all of us up in the room. I had to go sit in my office for a half-hour alone after seeing it,” Schumer said.

He also said he plans to deliver “a major address on the Senate floor” Wednesday about “the dangerously dark and terrifying trend of antisemitism that is on the rise.”

Follow live updates on the Israel-Hamas war

Other senators who attended the viewing included Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I.; and Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., as well as several Republicans, such as Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Pete Ricketts of Nebraska.

Sens. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., arranged the viewing for their colleagues, which was supposed to have taken place before the Thanksgiving break but was postponed.

“It’s important to bear witness in real time,” Rosen told a small group of reporters outside the viewing. “Sometime in the future, we’ll go, there’ll be a museum, there'll be a memorial, there’ll be another Yad Vashem or Holocaust Museum. Just like we do and we honor those who’ve died, whether it’s in war or conflict or from terror, but by then it will be sanitized, and memories will be longer gone. It’s important that we see it now in real time, because Hamas has vowed to repeat this day over and over, over and over, and there were over 1,000 people massacred."

Rubio echoed Rosen, saying: "I think it’s really important not to sanitize this over time. These horrifying incidents sort of lose their impact because, for whatever reason — it was important, you know, other members who wanted to see it got clearer insight into what happened on that day and who we’re dealing with. And, you know, what’s stunning about it is the glee and the joy and the pride that the people involved in these horrifying crimes took in what they were doing."

Members of the House had the opportunity to view the video this month, and some senators viewed it during recent visits to Israel.

Israel has shown the 46-minute video to lawmakers, journalists and other groups around the world since Oct. 7. NBC News journalists viewed it in October at a screening in Tel Aviv and said it showed festivalgoers running, screaming and hiding as bullets and rockets rained down on them. It showed civilians, including young children, shot to death and burned beyond recognition.

At the Capitol on Monday evening, senior-level officials from the Israel Defense Forces met with a group of Senate Democrats to discuss the military conflict in Gaza and concerns about the humanitarian crisis there.

Meanwhile, the temporary truce between Israel and Hamas entered a fifth day Tuesday after both sides agreed to extend the pause in fighting to allow for the release of more Israeli hostages held in Gaza and Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.

President Joe Biden has asked Congress to pass emergency appropriations to provide aid to Israel, but Democrats and Republicans have not yet been able to reconcile their differences over the details of such a legislative package.

In an interview Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan did not rule out the possibility that Biden could support Congress' passing aid to Israel with conditions.