I walked up the hill to the main stage area of the Nova Festival site knowing we were entering a murderous scene the world has heard so much about but has yet to fully understand.
As I passed bullet-ridden cars where people trying to escape were gunned down; burnt-out cars where some young people had tried to hide; and past camping chairs, sleeping bags, roll mats and unopened snacks, it struck me that it seemed almost suspended in time.
Colourful tents flap in the breeze and bars with bottles of whiskey left as the massacre began haven’t been touched.
It’s taken days to get access to the Nova Festival site; the authorities have been collecting the bodies of more than 250 young men and women killed here.
Throughout our wait, they told us it was simply too dangerous.
The site is remote and on public land between two kibbutzim – Be’eri and Re’im – both of which were attacked like the festival on Saturday morning.
Hamas, it seems, came determined to abduct people, but mainly to murder them. And these locations constitute the worst terror attacks in Israel’s history.
At the festival campsite, teams of recovery specialists are conducting fingertip searches for human remains burnt during the attack.
Stunned looking soldiers are making their way through the site, checking for personal belongings and potential booby traps left by the Hamas raiding party.
The cars that people tried to escape in but found themselves trapped in litter the entire festival site.
Some cars are burnt beyond recognition, others are riddled with bullets.
The cars that have been checked for booby traps are marked with a blue X. The ones that have yet to be checked by the bomb squad are marked with a yellow one.
It’s eery and it’s tense.
Suddenly we hear one gunshot, followed shortly after by another. We start to hear lots of shouting and see soldiers running toward the outer edge of the festival site.
A suspected Hamas militant has appeared, brandishing a knife.
Machine guns raised and pointing at him, he is told to undress – they worry he has a suicide vest on.
Once he is undressed, he is forced to the floor, blindfolded, and his hands bound.
Other soldiers take defensive positions to protect their colleagues – there could easily be more Hamas militants still hiding.
This type of encounter has been happening since Saturday in southern Israel and shows just how volatile the situation still is.
And even now after another day, more troops are being deployed to this and many other sites.
Only Hamas knows how many of their assassins remain inside this country.
“The reason we have so many forces here is because this whole area is still dangerous – we waited an hour on the outskirts of this area because they were afraid there are still terrorists here,” an Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson told me.
“We’re here under guard, but we have to let people do their jobs. People were massacred here, there is a reason to be on high alert.”
The festival was abruptly stopped when rockets started exploding around the partygoers.
Many decided to stay where they were and others joined traffic queues trying to leave, but then the shooting started.
Many simply didn’t stand a chance.
We came across Anel, one of the festival organisers, who was packing up the equipment he had left behind and loading it into his pick-up truck and trailer.
He is a survivor. He says it’s a miracle he is alive, and that the attack was lightning quick.
I asked him how he got away.
“We were just on autopilot you know, pure instinct, this is what I can say about myself, but a lot of friends, a lot of people, didn’t make it…” his voice trails off.
This is a massive crime scene of course and Israel is promising to avenge the deaths of its young people.
But for the many families of those young people murdered here, time may really feel like it has stopped.
That Saturday morning will never be forgotten.
Written by: Newsroom