How Hamas took 150 Israelis hostage | ET REALITY


Gaya Kalderon last heard from half of her family at 8:26 a.m. Saturday morning.

“They are here,” his sister Sahar, 16, wrote in a text message.

“Who is it?” Gaya, 21, responded.

“We are hiding from them,” Sahar said. “We left the house.”

“Where are you?” Gaya said. “Where are you going?”

There was no answer.

It wasn’t until Sunday that a terrified Kalderon saw any signs of her missing relatives on social media. A video emerged of an Israeli boy being pushed down a road by Palestinian militants.

“I’m scrolling through Instagram and I see a video,” Kalderon recalled. “And he is my brother.”

Erez, 12, and four other members of the Kalderon family are feared to be among the approximately 150 Israelis, many of them civilians, taken hostage by Palestinian militants during the largest invasion of Israeli territory in 50 years. Another 900 Israelis were killed, according to a government statement.

Erez and Sahar Kalderon. They are feared to be among approximately 150 Israelis taken hostage by Palestinian militants.Credit…via Kalderon family

The hostages were taken in homes in towns along Israel’s border with Gaza, including the Kalderons’ small village, Kibbutz Nahal Oz, as well as at military bases and at a huge outdoor dance party.

Among them are civilians, soldiers, people with disabilities, children, grandparents and even a 9-month-old baby. Also believed to be among the hostages is at least one Palestinian living in Israel, a bus driver who spent the night near the garden party after taking Israelis there, his family said.

The capture of so many Israelis by Palestinian militants has taken the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into uncharted territory, not only because of the large number of hostages, but also because of the terrible threats that Hamas is issuing against them.

On Monday night, Hamas’s military wing warned that it would execute a civilian hostage every time an Israeli airstrike hit Gazans “in their homes without warning.”

Since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, gunmen have kidnapped a handful of Israelis, including an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, whose capture deeply shocked Israel. He was freed in 2011, but only after protracted negotiations and the release of around 1,000 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

The capture of a much larger number this weekend – and the fact that so many civilians were kidnapped – makes the confrontation even more unpredictable and volatile.

Israel has already responded to the deadly Hamas attack with a counterattack against remaining gunmen inside Israel and an unusually intense series of attacks in Gaza, killing a total of about 687 Palestinians, according to Gaza health authorities.

But the presence of so many Israelis in Gaza means that Israel risks killing its own citizens by doing so. On Monday, Hamas said four Israeli hostages had been killed in an Israeli attack, although the claim could not be independently verified.

Then, on Monday night, Hamas’s military wing threatened to execute hostages if attacks on Gaza continued.

Hamas may have hoped that taking dozens of captives would ease its chances of achieving a broad prisoner exchange with Israel, said Eyal Hulata, who served as Israel’s national security adviser until January.

But for Israel, in the midst of one of the worst disasters in its history, now is not the time to even consider such an exchange, Hulata argued.

Hulata admitted that some Israeli captives could be killed in an ongoing Israeli offensive. But that would probably be Hamas’s responsibility to “place them as human shields,” he said.

“I want to bring everyone home. But we can’t do it as long as the other side thinks they can get away with it,” Hulata said.

In the past, Egypt and Qatar played key roles as mediators between Israel and Hamas as the two enemies negotiated over captives. But for now, the sides were only “at the stage of transmitting messages,” rather than direct talks to release the prisoners, said Yaron Blum, a veteran Israeli intelligence official who served for five years as a contact person in the country. for captured and missing Israelis. .

“My assessment is that they are conveying this message: Hamas is responsible, and if you touch a hair on the heads of those old people, women, babies and soldiers, Israel will be furious,” Blum said.

Yoni Asher’s nightmare began early Saturday morning during a phone call with his wife, Doron Asher Katz.

In a whisper, Mrs. Asher Katz said that she, her mother and her two young daughters were trapped inside her mother’s safe room in a village near the Gaza border.

“She told me, ‘There are terrorists inside the house,’” Asher recalled.

Then came worse news: Asher Katz’s mother’s life partner, Gadi Moses, had left the safe room to try to reason with the intruders.

“She said, ‘They left and took him with them,’” Asher said.

Asher, 37, hoped at least his wife and children were safe. But then the phone lines went dead.

It was the last time Mr. Asher heard from his wife.

By tracking her cell phone remotely, she saw that the device was taken to southern Gaza on Saturday, suggesting that she had also been kidnapped.

Then, he said, a video circulated on social media of kidnapped Israelis being driven through Gaza, stuffed into the back of a van by armed men. In the video, he said, an armed man tries to put a type of blindfold over a woman’s eyes.

Asher said he recognized the woman. It was Doron, his wife.

Her daughters Raz and Aviv, ages 5 and 3, and her mother-in-law, Efrat Katz, 67, were crushed next to her, she said.

“I can’t sleep; I live outside of my own body,” Asher said.

“I have two little babies, two girls,” she added. “These little babies should not be held or held by terrorists.”

On Saturday, a few streets away, on the same kibbutz, Yarden Bibas, 36, and his wife Shiri, 30, also fled to the safe room of their home. Armed with a small pistol, Bibas sent a text message to his family, while militants fired automatic weapons outside his windows.

“I love you all,” Bibas wrote. And then 30 minutes later: “They’re coming in.”

The messages stopped.

Her family later said they saw images circulating on social media showing Shiri and her two bright red-haired children, one of them just 9 months old, imprisoned by Palestinian militants.

There was no sign of Mr. Bibas.

Shiri’s parents, Yossi Silberman, an artist who worked various jobs at the kibbutz, and his wife, Margit, a kindergarten teacher who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, also remain missing and are feared kidnapped.

“I just hope they are alive and that they are together. And I want them at home, with me, so I can hug them tight again,” Yifat Zeiler, the couple’s niece, said between sobs.

“We feel that those responsible do not know what to do, because it is a situation that we have never experienced before. That is the feeling in Israel,” she added. “It’s a catastrophe.”

Patrick Kingsley reported from Jerusalem and Aaron Boxerman From london. Natan Odenheimer contributed to this report from Jerusalem.

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