December 1, 2023

Gaya Kalderon final heard from half her household at 8:26 a.m. on Saturday morning.

“They’re right here,” her sister, Sahar, 16, wrote in a textual content message.

“Who’s?” Gaya, 21, replied.

“We’re hiding from them,” Sahar mentioned. “We left the home.”

“The place are you?” Gaya mentioned. “The place are you going?”

There was no reply.

It wasn’t till Sunday {that a} terrified Ms. Kalderon noticed any signal of her lacking kinfolk, on social media. A video appeared of an Israeli baby being shoved down a path by Palestinian militants.

“I’m wanting on Instagram and I see a video,” Ms. Kalderon recalled. “And it’s my brother.”

Erez, 12, and 4 different members of the Kalderon household are feared to be amongst an estimated 150 Israelis, a lot of them civilians, taken hostage by Palestinian militants throughout the broadest invasion of Israeli territory in 50 years. About 900 different Israelis had been killed, in accordance with a authorities assertion.

Erez and Sahar Kalderon. They’re feared to be amongst an estimated 150 Israelis taken hostage by Palestinian militants.Credit score…by way of Kalderon household

The hostages had been seized from houses in cities alongside Israel’s border with Gaza — together with the Kalderons’ small village of Kibbutz Nahal Oz — in addition to from navy bases and an enormous outdoor dance party.

They embody civilians, troopers, individuals with disabilities, kids, grandparents and even a 9-month-old child. The hostages are additionally believed to incorporate not less than one Palestinian resident of Israel, a bus driver who spent the night time close to the outside social gathering after driving Israelis there, his household mentioned.

The seize of so many Israelis by Palestinian militants has taken the Israeli-Palestinian battle into uncharted territory — not solely within the sheer variety of hostages, but in addition within the dire threats Hamas is making in opposition to them.

On Monday night time, the Hamas navy wing warned that it will execute a civilian hostage each time an Israeli airstrike hits Gazans “of their houses with out warning.”

Since Hamas seized management of Gaza in 2007, gunmen there have kidnapped a handful of Israelis, together with an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, whose seize shook Israel deeply. He was freed in 2011, however solely after extended negotiations and the discharge of round 1,000 Palestinians jailed by Israel.

The seize of a a lot bigger quantity this weekend — and the truth that so many civilians had been kidnapped — makes the standoff much more unpredictable and risky.

Already, Israel has responded to the lethal assault by Hamas with a counterattack on the remaining gunmen inside Israel and an unusually intense sequence of strikes on Gaza, killing a complete of about 687 Palestinians, in accordance with the Gaza well being authorities.

However the presence of so many Israelis in Gaza signifies that Israel dangers killing its personal residents by doing so. On Monday, Hamas mentioned that 4 Israeli hostages had been killed in an Israeli strike, although the declare couldn’t be independently verified.

Then on Monday night time, the Hamas navy wing issued its risk to execute hostages if the strikes on Gaza continued.

Hamas could have hoped that taking dozens of captives would ease its probabilities of pursuing a broad prisoner trade with Israel, mentioned Eyal Hulata, who served as Israel’s nationwide safety adviser till January.

However for Israel, within the throes of one of many worst disasters in its historical past, now is just not the time to even contemplate such an trade, Mr. Hulata argued.

Mr. Hulata allowed that some Israeli captives could be killed in an ongoing Israeli offensive. However that might seemingly be Hamas’s duty for “inserting them as human shields,” he mentioned.

“I wish to convey everybody dwelling. However we can not try this so long as the opposite aspect thinks they’ll get away with this,” mentioned Mr. Hulata.

Previously, Egypt and Qatar performed key roles as mediators between Israel and Hamas as the 2 foes negotiated over captives. However for now, the edges had been solely “on the stage of passing messages alongside,” moderately than direct talks to free prisoners, mentioned Yaron Blum, a veteran Israeli intelligence official who served for 5 years because the nation’s level individual for captured and lacking Israelis.

“My evaluation is that they’re passing alongside this message: Hamas is accountable, and that if one hair on the heads of these aged, girls, infants, troopers is touched — Israel will go ballistic,” Mr. Blum mentioned.

Yoni Asher’s nightmare started early on Saturday morning throughout a telephone name along with his spouse, Doron Asher Katz.

Whispering, Ms. Asher Katz mentioned that she, her mom and their two small daughters had been trapped inside her mom’s secure room in a village close to the Gaza border.

“She informed me, ‘There are terrorists inside the home,’” Mr. Asher recalled.

Then got here worse information: Ms. Asher Katz’s mom’s life accomplice, Gadi Moses, had left the secure room to attempt to purpose with the intruders.

“She mentioned, ‘they left — and so they took him with them,’” Mr. Asher mentioned.

Mr. Asher, 37, hoped that not less than his partner and kids can be secure. However then the telephone strains went useless.

It was the final time Mr. Asher heard from his spouse.

Monitoring her cellphone remotely, he noticed that the system was taken on Saturday to southern Gaza, suggesting that she, too, had been kidnapped.

Then, he mentioned, a video circulated on social media of kidnapped Israelis being pushed by means of Gaza, bundled into the again of a pickup truck by armed gunmen. Within the video, he mentioned, a gunman makes an attempt to unfold a type of blindfold over a lady’s head.

Mr. Asher mentioned he acknowledged the girl. It was Doron, his spouse.

His daughters Raz and Aviv, 5 and three, and his mother-in-law, Efrat Katz, 67, had been squashed alongside her, he mentioned.

“I can’t sleep — I’m residing outdoors my very own physique,” mentioned Mr. Asher.

“I’ve two little infants, two little ladies,” he added. “These little infants mustn’t stored held or stored by terrorists.”

A number of streets away on the identical kibbutz on Saturday, Yarden Bibas, 36, and his spouse Shiri, 30, additionally fled to the secure room of their dwelling. Mr. Bibas was armed with a small pistol, he texted his household, whereas militants fired automated weapons outdoors their home windows.

“I like you all,” Mr. Bibas wrote. After which, half-hour later: “They’re coming in.”

The messages stopped.

Later, their household mentioned they noticed footage circulating on social media exhibiting Shiri and their two brightly red-haired kids — one among them simply 9 months previous — imprisoned by Palestinian militants.

There was no signal of Mr. Bibas.

Shiri’s dad and mom — Yossi Silberman, an artist who labored varied jobs across the kibbutz, and his spouse, Margit, a kindergarten instructor who suffers from Parkinson’s illness — additionally stay lacking and are feared to have been kidnapped.

“I simply hope that they’re alive, and that they’re collectively. And I need them dwelling, with me, so I can hug them tightly once more,” mentioned Yifat Zeiler, the couple’s niece, sobbing.

“We really feel that these accountable don’t know what to do, as a result of it is a state of affairs we’ve by no means been in earlier than. That’s the sensation in Israel,” she added. “It’s a disaster.”

Patrick Kingsley reported from Jerusalem and Aaron Boxerman from London. Natan Odenheimer contributed reporting from Jerusalem.

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