DNA and Prayers: Desperate Search for Missing Israelis after Hamas Attack
By Dan Williams
Hundreds of stunned Israelis flooded into a central police station on Sunday, seeking any information about their loved ones who went missing following a mass infiltration by Hamas militants from the Gaza Strip.
In a shocking attack that caught Israel off guard, Hamas gunmen launched a coordinated assault that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people. The scale of the tragedy left many Israelis uncertain about the fate of their missing family members.
Not only were the number of missing individuals unknown, but there were also fears that many had been taken captive and brought into Gaza. Among the captives were young children, while others sought refuge in their besieged Israeli villages.
The Gaza border region, just an hour’s drive from the police information center in Airport City, remained under military lockdown. Israeli troops continued their street-by-street battles with the gunmen, gradually uncovering the full extent of the carnage.
One distraught mother, who preferred to remain anonymous, spoke with Reuters after providing her DNA sample and handing over a brush containing her son’s hair follicles. Her son had been attending an outdoor dance party that was stormed by Hamas gunmen.
“The last we heard from him, he called from the car, saying he was trying to escape and that they were shooting at him,” she said. “I’m doing everything I can to find out what happened.”
Outside the police center, a man fervently prayed with a rabbi while his fiancée filled out a report for her missing brother.
Yoni Asher, who had returned to his home in central Israel after numerous failed attempts to seek assistance from the authorities, recounted the harrowing experience of his wife and two young daughters. They had been visiting his mother-in-law in the community of Nir Oz near the border when they were attacked by Hamas.
“She told me that the terrorists were inside the house,” he said, his voice trembling. “Then the call abruptly ended.”
Later, Asher managed to track his wife’s mobile phone through her Google account. It was located in Khan Younis, a city in Gaza. He also came across a video circulating on social media, showing his wife and daughters being taken to Gaza by Hamas militants.
“I could clearly identify my wife, my two daughters, and my mother-in-law on some kind of cart, with Hamas terrorists surrounding them,” he said, his eyes filled with anguish.
“My little girls, they are just babies, not even 5 and 3 years old… I don’t know what conditions they are being held in. I have no idea what has happened to them.”
(This story has been refiled to correct the spelling of ‘fiancée’ in paragraph 7)
(Additional reporting by Miro Maman; Editing by Hugh Lawson)