JERUSALEM: Around 150 Israeli residents, including soldiers, civilians, children and women as well as foreign nationals, are believed to be held by Palestinian militants in Gaza since a massive Hamas onslaught.
With several hundred people still unaccounted for and bodies still being identified days after the Hamas attack, Israeli authorities have only an estimate of the number of missing being held in the Gaza Strip.
Many families lost contact with their loved ones during the brutal cross-border assault, which officials said on Wednesday killed at least 1,200 people in Israel.
Some identified relatives in videos circulating on social media from the blockaded Palestinian enclave, while others desperately await concrete information.
Noa Argamani, student on motorbike
The images of the 26-year-old woman on a motorbike, crying “Don’t kill me!” as she was held by Hamas militants, with her abducted boyfriend nearby, made headlines around the world.
A student at Ben-Gurion University in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, Argamani “loves life”, a group of her friends said in a text published on social media.
“She is a great friend with a big heart,” they said.
She and her partner Avinathan Or are believed to have been kidnapped from a desert rave near the Gaza border, where at least 270 party-goers were murdered, according to officials.
Vivian Silver, peace activist
Canadian-born Silver, 74, has been a longtime feminist activist advocating peace with the Palestinians from her home in Beeri, a kibbutz near the border where more than 100 people were slain.
Silver and dozens more residents of her community are still missing.
“She is a fighter for justice, and a great mother and grandmother,” Silver’s son, Yonatan Zeigen, 35, told AFP by telephone.
Zeiger, who lives in Tel Aviv, “was on the phone with her until the moment she wrote to me they (gunmen) were inside the house” at around 11:00 am (0800 GMT) on Saturday, he said.
“Since then we don’t know anything,” Zeiger added, urging Israeli and Canadian authorities to push for her release.
He said his mother “would’ve said that (the war) is the result of the path we’ve taken all those years. The only way to feel safe... is with peace.”
Alex Danzig, Holocaust historian
Polish-Israeli Danzig has published several books on the history of Poland’s Jewish community and the systematic murder of Jews during World War II, including visitor guides on Warsaw and Krakow.
“All the guides in Poland, in Jewish sites and in Nazi camps, only use his books,” said a tour guide at Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.
Danzig has lived in Nir Oz, a Gaza border kibbutz community that lost dozens of residents in the Hamas attack. About 50 of them are believed to be held in Gaza.
Doron Asher Katz, taken with daughters
Asher Katz, 34, was visiting her parents in Nir Oz when militants stormed the community on the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah, her sister Leeor Katz-Natanzon told AFP.
After losing contact with her, relatives had identified Asher Katz, along with her mother and young daughters, two-year-old Aviv and four-year-old Raz, in footage from Gaza.
“I prayed that everything was okay,” Katz-Natanzon recalled, but a call came from Asher Katz’s partner, Yoni, and he “said he saw them in a video of Hamas”.
“What are they doing to them?” the sister asked. “Where are they? How are they treating them, with two young daughters?”
Itay Chen, soldier
Chen, 19, was about one year into his military service in the Israeli Armoured Corps when his base near the Gaza border was attacked, his father, Ruby Chen, told reporters.
The Chens were preparing to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah, a Jewish rite of passage, of Itay’s young brother Alon, and the soldier requested to stay on base over the weekend so that he could be with his family the following week, his father said.
“We still hope this celebration... will happen in the near future.”
While he had no concrete information, the father said he had received “indications” from Israeli authorities pointing to his son being “a POW”.
Shani Louk, on holiday from Berlin
German-Israeli Louk, 22, is believed to have been abducted from the desert rave, according to her mother.
The student from Berlin was on holiday in Israel, media reports said.
In a video aired Tuesday by German broadcaster ARD, Richarda Louk said she had received information that her daughter was “alive but has a severe head injury and is in critical condition”.
“Every minute is critical, and we are asking the German government to act quickly.”
Ivonne Rubio, whose family fled Colombia
Rubio, 26, and her partner Antonio Mesias Montano, whose age is unknown, are both Colombian nationals who lived in Israel and attended the same festival as Louk.
Rubio’s father, Julio Rubio, told Colombia’s Caracol Radio the family had moved to Israel 32 years ago “fleeing the violence in our country... in the time of (notorious drug cartel leader) Pablo Escobar”.
“We came here looking for some peace, and now look at what we’ve found here,” he said.
Owat Suriyasri, migrant worker
Suriyasri, 40, from Si Saket province in eastern Thailand, is a “very friendly, caring and happy man”, his wife Kanyarat Suriyasri told AFP.
He moved to Israel in 2021 for improved wages, hoping to build a better house for his wife and two children.
He is among dozens of migrant workers feared dead or kidnapped following the assault on southern Israel, where many work in agriculture and other sectors.
At least 18 Thais have been killed and 11 seized, including Suriyasri.