Israelis beg for help after family identified among Hamas hostages
A German-Israeli tattoo artist and an Israeli couple are among dozens of apparent kidnapping victims who have been identified by distraught family members from social media clips of their purported abductions, it was reported on Saturday. Many have complained the government is not helping them find their loved ones.
Tattoo artist Shani Louk is believed by members of her family to have been killed when Hamas raided the Nova Festival, an all-night rave near the Gaza border, early on Saturday morning. Her parents told the Washington Post that they recognized her tattoos and long dreadlocks in a widely shared Hamas hostage-taking video posted hours later, which appears to show her face-down and unconscious in the back of a pickup truck as militants surrounding her body cheer. After watching the video, Louk’s mother posted a plea for “any help or any news” of her daughter.
Another Nova Festival attendee, Noa Argamani, appears to plead for her life as she is carried away by militants on a motorcycle while her boyfriend, Avinatan Or, looks on helplessly in a clip that has been widely circulated on social media. Or’s brother, who was reportedly contacted by emergency services about the video, explained that “very long lists” of the missing and presumed kidnapped are circulating in social media groups as people missing loved ones take matters into their own hands.
Hamas claims to have taken hundreds of Israeli hostages on Saturday, transporting them to various locations inside Gaza. Militant leaders reportedly hope to trade the captives for imprisoned Hamas members. The number of hostages taken is “many times greater than what Netanyahu thinks,” a Hamas spokesman told the group’s Al-Aqsa TV channel, warning Israel to weigh its response carefully because “whatever happens to the people of the Gaza Strip will happen to” the captives.
Israel’s government press office has confirmed that more than 100 Israelis are currently being held prisoner in Gaza. However, officials said the government is not currently negotiating for the return of hostages and have denied reports that Egypt is negotiating with Hamas on Israel’s behalf. Media reports have placed the number of kidnapped Israelis at closer to 170, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged on Sunday that several Americans were also believed to be among the prisoners.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed former reservist brigadier general Gal Hirsch to oversee the search for missing and kidnapped Israelis.
More than 600 Israelis have been reported killed since Saturday, with at least 2,156 more said to be wounded, according to Israeli health authorities. The government has formally declared war against the militant group, while Netanyahu has promised to destroy Gaza with “mighty vengeance” in retaliation.