Shani Louk, a 23-year-old German-Israeli woman abducted by Hamas fighters when they stormed a music festival in the Israeli desert, is dead, Israel’s foreign ministry said Monday.
“Our hearts are broken,” the ministry wrote in a message on X, formerly Twitter, as it confirmed Louk’s death.
Who was Shani Louk?
Shani Louk was born on 7 February 2001 to an Israeli father and German mother, Ricarda Louk, who had lived in Ravensburg, Germany, and moved to Israel in the early 1990s.
Louk and her family moved to Portland, Oregon in the early 2000s, and she attended kindergarten at Portland Jewish Academy.
She was a resident of Tel Aviv, where she worked as a freelance tattoo artist, and also had a following as an Instagram influencer.
Shani Louk Disappearance: What happened to Shani Louk?
On 7 October 2023, as a component of the initial incursion in the 2023 Israel–Hamas war, Hamas militants crossed into Israel from the Gaza Strip and carried out a massacre at the Supernova Sukkot Gathering music festival.
The event was an open-air psychedelic trance festival, coinciding with the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, and took place in the western Negev desert, approximately 5 km (3.1 mi) from the Gaza–Israel barrier, near the Re’im kibbutz.
Shani Louk was at the festival, accompanied by her boyfriend, a Mexican citizen.
After the Red Color rocket warning alarm was sounded, and the attack began, Louk talked on the phone with her mother, saying that there are few places to hide and that she will try to find one. She went missing afterward.
Shani Louk paraded video
After the massacre, a video emerged showing Shani Louk, partially clothed and seemingly unconscious, with blood on her hair, being paraded in the streets of Gaza City by Hamas militants in the back of a pickup truck; they were exclaiming “Allahu Akbar”, and were joined in the cheers by the people in the crowd surrounding the vehicle, some of whom spat on Louk.
The video went viral, becoming one of the first viral videos of the 2023 Israel–Hamas war.
According to security experts interviewed by Agence France-Presse, the release of the video, along other videos showing dead or captured civilians, has the character of deliberate and sophisticated propaganda aimed to induce feelings of “helplessness, paralysis, and humiliation” in the population, and that viral spread of such materials causes amplification of narratives desirable to Hamas.
Despite Hamas being banned on Twitter as a terrorist organization, some of its propaganda videos have circulated there after being reposted from one platform to the other.
Discussed by journalists as one such video was the video showing Louk; together with other Hamas-related content being shared, it prompted the European Commmission to warn the owner of Twitter Elon Musk about permitting spread of illegal content, and then, on 12 October, to initiate an investigation against Twitter for dissemination of “violent and terrorist content” and other forms of illegal content.
In a New York Times column, Nicholas Kristof discussed the video as an example of the causes of trauma and anger experienced within Jewish communities in the aftermath of the attacks.
According to commentator Bobby Ghosh, Hamas released propaganda videos quickly, wanting to be the first to score psychological warfare gains; however, the video showing Louk did not demoralize Israeli society; instead, her “treatment at the hands of [her] captors drew widespread revulsion and reprobation, and if anything, strengthened Israeli resolve to exact retribution.
Is Shani Louk dead?
From circulated videos, it was originally believed that Shani Louk survived the ordeal and was taken hostage by Hamas, reported The Wall Street Journal.
After more investigation, Louk’s death was verified by Israel’s National Center of Forensic Medicine, reported the Journal.
The Israel Foreign Ministry confirmed her death on Monday in an X post, formerly known as Twitter.
“We are devastated to share that the death of 23-year-old German-Israeli Shani Louk was confirmed,” wrote the ministry.
When was Shani Louk killed?
It is believed that Louk was killed at the time of the attack on Oct. 7, per The New York Times.
Louk’s aunt, Ruthi Louk, said that a relief organization called ZAKA found and identified a fragment of Shani Louk’s skull at the scene of the attack, reported the Times. The skull piece indicated an injury that Louk couldn’t have survived at the time of the attack.
“Maybe there can be comfort by the thought she died fast,” her aunt said on Israeli radio, per the Times.
Shani Louk death confirmation
On 30 October, Israel and Germany confirmed Louk’s death, after forensic examiners found the petrous part of the temporal bone from her skull, with her DNA.
Deutsche Welle and other news outlets reported that the rest of the body had still not been found.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog stated that Shani Louk had been decapitated.