The heartbreaking stories of the Hamas hostages

Chinese-born Israeli student Noa Argamani, 25, is among the hostages captured by Hamas (Noa Argamani/Facebook)
Chinese-born Israeli student Noa Argamani, 25, is among the hostages captured by Hamas (Noa Argamani/Facebook)

A German-Israeli mother and her two daughters, both under six. A DJ and a restaurant manager in their early twenties. An elderly Holocaust survivor who had worked for decades championing peace and recognition of Palestinian rights.

These are just some of the estimated 199 people being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza — 50 more than previously thought— after being seized from a music festival and abducted from their homes when Hamas mounted its terror attack on Israel last week.

Some appear to have been taken from their homes in the Israeli border communities. Others are believed to have been seized from a wooded area close to the border after spending the night at a music festival. Naturally, all of their loved ones have expressed growing concern for their health and survival amid fears hostages may be used as bargaining chips for a prisoner swap or as human shields as Israel strikes back in Gaza.

Pictures of some of the estimated 199 hostages being held captive by the Hamas terror group (ES)
Pictures of some of the estimated 199 hostages being held captive by the Hamas terror group (ES)

A Hamas official this week said he “does not know” how many hostages are still alive, but its first hostage video released this week showed a 21-year-old Israeli captive, Mia Shem, saying she was “fine” and had been treated for her injuries. A statement by the group’s armed wing on Telegram earlier this week said that at least dozens of the hostages are being hidden in “safe places and the tunnels of the resistance”, but it has also threatened to execute a civilian hostage every time an Israeli airstrike hits Gazans “in their homes without warning”, so fears are mounting fast.

The names and details of all 199 captives are not yet known, but what we do know is that at least 13 children, eight over-60s and 10 Britons are among the credibly reported suspected captives — more than previous informal estimates had suggested. Grandparents are among them. Mothers are among them. Even babies less than a year old.

These are just some of the stories we know so far.

‘I’m fine’: the face of Hamas’ first hostage video

Keren Shem, the mother of French-Israeli woman Mia Shem, held hostage by Hamas (AFP via Getty Images)
Keren Shem, the mother of French-Israeli woman Mia Shem, held hostage by Hamas (AFP via Getty Images)

Mia Shem

Age: 21

Nationality: Israeli-French

“They are taking care of me, giving me medicine, everything is fine. I only ask that they bring me home as soon as possible to my parents, to my siblings. Get me out of here as soon as possible. Please.”

These were the words of Mia Shem, a 21-year-old from Shoham in Israel who was captured from the site of the Supernova music festival where at least 260 people were killed last week and this week became the subject of Hamas’ first hostage video since the terror attack began.

In the clip, Shem — described by her mother as a sagacious and creative young woman who loves to paint and is close with her sister and two brothers — is seen sitting against a brown patterned background with her arm bandaged up. She speaks solemnly, confirming in Hebrew that she is being looked after and that her injured arm has been operated on for three hours in hospital before appealing for her release.


“Thank God, my girl is alive,” her mother Karen Shem, a single mother, said last week on learning that her daughter had been taken hostage during a live TV interview. “My Mia is alive — I didn’t know that until just now. I fell on the ground, I need to watch it again. My Mia went to a party to have fun, to enjoy herself. I didn’t know if she was alive or dead until now.”

She later told another publication that so many days had passed it was becoming harder to think positively, but that her daughter was a “warrior in her soul”.

The music-loving Californian forced to tourniquet his own arm


Hersh Goldberg-Polin

Age: 23

Nationality: Israeli-American

The first text Hersh Goldberg-Polin, 23, sent his parents before he went missing said "I love you". The second said "I’m sorry".

“I immediately took that to mean he knew he was in trouble, that it would cause us a lot of pain, and he was sorry,” his mother Rachel Goldberg, 53, told reporters from her Jerusalem living room this week.

Her son Hersh — a travel and festival-loving Californian native who had been planning to go on a 12-month backpacking trip after finishing his mandatory military service — had been with his parents the night before, for a family dinner celebrating the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah (he was born in Berkeley, California and moved to Israel to be with his family in 2008). He’d left to meet up with his best friend Aner Shapira and kissed his parents goodbye, saying he would see them the following day.

Hersh and his good friend were trying to throw grenades back out of a bomb shelter

Rachel Goldberg, Hersh's mother

But the following day, Hamas attacked and Goldberg checked her phone to find two text messages from her son as air-raid sirens reverberated through the city. After Hersh’s phone went silent, Goldberg’s daughter Leebie, 20, eventually came across online footage of Hamas attacking a music festival in northern Negev and the family realised their son — a keen music festival fan — must have attended.

“Since then we’ve had this real nightmare,” says Goldberg, whose family are one of many campaigning for their son’s return. Survivors of the festival attack have since recognised Goldberg-Polin and and his best friend Shapira in pictures and told the family that the pair had been hailed as heroes. “Hersh and his good friend were trying to throw grenades back out of a bomb shelter,” Goldberg said of accounts from eyewitnesses.

The two best friends are both believed to be injured, Goldberg-Polin’s arm possibly blown off below the elbow in one of the explosions. Apparently he was conscious but wearing a tourniquet he had made himself when he was seen boarding the militants’ truck. His last known location from his phone shows him on the border with Gaza at 12.45pm on that Saturday.

A German-Israeli mother and her daughters under six

Doron Asher Katz and her daughters Raz and Aviv

Ages: 34, five and two

Nationality: German-Israeli

A purple dress in a nine-second TikTok video. This was the detail that confirmed to Yoni Asher, 37, what he had for hours been fearing: his wife and two daughters — the eldest, Raz, five, who had been wearing the same purple dress — were among the captives kidnapped by Hamas.

Asher had last spoken to his wife at 10.30am that morning, from the security room in the house of her mother Efrat Kat, 70, in the Nir Oz kibbutz, a communal settlement in the south of Israel, where she was staying with their two young daughters. Doron had whispered to him that Hamas “terrorists” had entered the family’s house and that they were locked down in the security room, but he disconnected the call after she told him that her mother’s partner Gadi Moses, 79, had left the security room and been taken my the militants.

“I didn’t want her to be noisy,” he says, of his reasons for ending the call. That was the last time he heard from her.

I don't think I need to describe to parents how that feels

Yoni Asher, the girls' father

Yoni has since identified his wife, daughters and mother-in-law in a nine-second TikTok video being widely circulated on Saturday afternoon. The clip showed a woman and two children being held, frightened, on the back of a pickup truck surrounded by men in military vests, one of the girls being shielded under the woman’s arms and an older woman squashed alongside her. “I recognized them immediately,” he said of the footage, the location of which has not been verified. “That’s when I knew for sure that they were captives.”

He has since been told by Israeli officials that it was “most likely” that his wife and daughters were being held hostage in the Gaza Strip. “I don’t think I need to describe to parents how that feels.”

The frail 80-somethings loaded onto a motorbike

London filmmaker Sharone Lifschitz, 52, believes her elderly parents were kidnapped from their home in Kibbutz Nir Oz (REUTERS)
London filmmaker Sharone Lifschitz, 52, believes her elderly parents were kidnapped from their home in Kibbutz Nir Oz (REUTERS)

The parents of Sharone Lifschitz

Ages: 85 and 83

Nationality: British-Israeli

Detached from her oxygen machine and loaded onto a motorbike. That’s what Sharone Lifschitz, 52, a London-based filmmaker and artist, believes happened to her elderly mother, who is understood to have been taken hostage by Hamas alongside her husband when the group stormed their home in Kibbutz Nir Oz last week.

The elderly couple were both lifelong peace activists who used to drive sick Palestinians from the Erez border crossing to appointments at Jerusalem hospitals at least once a week.

Her father had reportedly met the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and once fought a successful campaign in the Israeli courts to restore ancestral land to the Bedouin. “We had relationships with many people in Gaza, we were a community that wanted to work together,” Lifschitz, who grew up on the kibbutz before moving to London, told a press conference in the British capital last week.

You have to be a special sort of person to take an 85-year-old person out of her bed. These are frail people

Sharone Lifschitz, the couple's daughter

Lifschitz says she and her brother had recently gifted their father a new piano, but that the whole house was now destroyed and just “three centimetres tall”. “You have to be a special sort of person to take an 85-year-old out of her bed,” she said of her mother.

She said that another of the Nir Oz hostage victims was a friend’s daughter, who is autistic. “She is not well to be in a very acute situation, I want her out.”

A Holocaust survivor and peace activist who was about to travel to London

Ada Sagi (AP)
Ada Sagi (AP)

Ada Sagi

Age: 75

Nationality: Israeli

“I shouldn’t be here today, I was supposed to go to Heathrow to pick up my mum,” psychotherapist Noam Sagi, a childhood friend of Sharone Lifschitz who also grew up on the kibbutz, said at a press conference in London last week. “I am here because of pure evil… Someone remind me: why is my mother a hostage? For living in her own home in Israel.”

Noam was speaking about his mother Ada Sagi, 75, a peace activist and the daughter of Holocaust survivors, who was living alone as a widow when she was kidnapped from Nir Oz alongside Lifschitz’s parents last week. The mother-of-three had been preparing to travel to London to celebrate her 75th birthday after losing her husband of 54 years to cancer last year and undergoing a hip replacement.

Before his father’s death, Noam says his parents had “created a dream for themselves”. “My mother’s mission was to build bridges through communicating: no politics, no governments, just people in communities. All their lives they fought for a better future for all of us, and they were marginalised in Israel for their beliefs.”

My mother's dream was to build bridges through communicating... all their lives they fought for a better future for all of us

Noam Sagi, Ada's son

That dream “was alive until Saturday morning,” said Noam, adding that his mother had learned Arabic to make friends with her neighbours and later taught the language as a way to boost communication with Palestinians living nearby.

“On Saturday morning, the Kibbutz where I was born and grew up, woke up to a massacre,” he continued. “They have been gassed, burned, butchered, slaughtered, killed and kidnapped. Mostly young kids and old elderly people. They burned the place to the ground, shot the dogs. Nothing left.”

He has expressed particular concern for his mother’s health, given that she has severe allergies, especially to dust, and the militants left her emergency epipen at her home. He hopes his mother’s language skills will help her to negotiate with Hamas.

The elderly diabetic whose kidnapping was broadcast to her granddaughter

Channah Peri's Facebook story, posted by the Hamas terrorists believed to have taken her hostage (Channah Peri)
Channah Peri's Facebook story, posted by the Hamas terrorists believed to have taken her hostage (Channah Peri)

Channah Peri and her son Nadav Popplewell

Ages: 79 and 51

Nationality: British

Ayelet Svatitzky, 46, an author and mother-of-three from Wakefield in West Yorkshire, didn’t find out that her relatives had been taken hostage from social media — but from the hostage-takers themselves.

She was on the phone to her mother Channah Peri, 79, who lives near Haifa in northern Israel, when the surprise attack began, and heard the gunmen shouting orders before the phoneline went dead.

Seconds later, she received a set of images of her terrified mother with a message saying “Hamas”. “That was the last I heard of them,” says Svatitzky. “My neighbour looked outside the window and saw my mum being taken out. Then my 54-year-old brother Roi, who lives in a different neighbourhood, was found - he was shot dead behind his house.”

They are both diabetics, and I don’t know what will become of my mum without her insulin

Ayelet Svatitzky, Channah's daughter

The terrorists are believed to have stormed into Peri’s house and rounded up her other son Nadav Popplewell, 51, who lives next door, before sending photos of them with armed men in the background to contacts in Peri’s phone, including her 13-year-old granddaughter, Svatitzky’s daughter.

“We are frantic with worry,” says Svatitzky. “My mum and brother were taken away. They are both diabetics, and I don’t know what will become of my mum without her insulin.” You can read Svatitzky's full account of her relatives' kidnapping horror in our dispatch from Tel Aviv here.

A Jewish mother and daughter visiting from the US

Judith and Natalie Raanan (AP)
Judith and Natalie Raanan (AP)

Judith Raanan and her daughter Natalie

Ages: Unknown and 17

Nationality: American

Judith Raanan and her daughter Natalie, 17, had been planning their trip to Israel for some time.

“It was a special trip for the holiday season, for Rosh Hashanah through the end of Sukkot, and they’d been sending us messages and emails, and it seemed like they were having a really special time until we heard the worst news,” says Meir Hecht, their local rabbi in Illinois.

The pair had been visiting Natalie’s grandmother for her 85th birthday in the Nahal Oz kibbutz when the Hamas attacks unfolded last week, and were later seen being taken away by militants after calling Natalie’s father Uri to say they were hiding in a bunker. There’s been no word from them since.

It was a special trip for the holiday season... it seemed like they were having a really special time until we heard the worst news

Meir Hecht, Judith's local rabbi

Natalie had recently graduated from high school, her uncle Avi Zamir describing her as a “typical teenager” who “loves animals, likes life, likes friends.”

She was due to celebrate her 18th birthday later this month.

The German-Israeli mother who sacrificed herself for her daughter

Jordan Roman-Gat

Age: 36, unknown and three

Nationality: German-Israeli

The last time Alon Roman-Gat saw his wife Jordan she was handing their three-year-old daughter Geffen to him, hoping he could run faster to save her as Hamas gunmen shot at them.

The family had been bundled into a car by Hamas militants moments earlier, but had managed to hurl themselves out of the vehicle as they neared the Gaza border and were running for their lives.

Tragically, Jordan was right. According to her brother Gili Roman, Alon and his daughter managed to hide in nearby bushes while Jordan was caught and dragged back into the car.

My sister, holding her little kid, transferred her daughter to her husband in order to save her life

Roman-Gat, Jordan's brother

Alon was forced to watch on in despair as his wife was recaptured. She has been missing ever since.

The German-Israeli mother had been nervous of safety in the region before the attack. She reportedly left the kibbutz region a month before, fearful of insecurity, and had only returned for a Sabbath visit the day before the Hamas attack.

A new parent celebrating her maternity leave with friends

Celine Ben David Nagar

Age: 32

Nationality: French-Israeli

“Soldiers are coming. God, it was a mistake to come here.”

This was the last text Celine Ben David Nagar, 32 — an administrative assistant at a law firm who had just given birth to her first child, Ellie — sent to her husband Ido as Hamas fighters stormed the Nova music festival she’d chosen to attend with two friends at the end of her six-month maternity leave.

The trio had been on their way, but turned back when they heard rockets, making their way to a public bomb shelter instead.

I want to believe that she is alive there, in Gaza, and maybe she is taking care of the children who were kidnapped with her

Ido, Celine's husband

Her empty car was discovered the next day, sprayed with bullet holes, and a stranger has since told Ido that Celine had survived while her friends were killed by grenades thrown in the shelter.

She is believed to be somewhere inside Gaza in the hands of Hamas. “I want to believe that she is alive there, in Gaza, and maybe she is taking care of the children who were kidnapped with her,” says Ido.

“I just hope that she knows that we are fighting for her, and that she is telling herself she will come home.”

The globetrotting student and her boyfriend

Noa Argamani and Avinatan Or

Age: 26 and unknown

Nationality: Chinese-Israeli

“Don’t kill me!”.

These were the words screamed by Noa Argamani, 25, a Chinese-born Israeli student believed to have been kidnapped by Hamas at the Nova music festival, as she is seen in footage being taken away on the back of a militant’s motorbike.

Her grief-stricken father Yaakov Argamani has since verified the footage and sent his daughter a 26th birthday message in the “hope that it will reach” his only child last week.

"I was always so protective but in this moment I couldn’t protect her,” he told reporters after the attack last weekend. “All my life since she was born I have tried to protect and hug her, support and love her. I wish I could at this difficult moment at least encourage her or say something to her.”

Noa — who has since been seen sitting on a sofa drinking from a water bottle in a video released by Hamas — had just returned from a trip to Sri Lanka when she was abducted at the peace festival. “‘She is such a lovely, positive woman, always kind and loves to travel,” her university roommate, Amir Moadi, said this week, adding that she too was supposed to attend the festival but decided not to last-minute. “It’s very difficult when you see someone that is so close to you and you know so much being treated like this.”

Noa’s boyfriend Avinatan Or — who she is seen gesturing towards with open arms in the Hamas footage — is also missing. In one clip, he is seen being manhandled with an arm pinned behind his back.

The distraught teacher and her two red-headed toddlers

Shiri Silberman-Bibas and her sons Ariel and Kfir

Ages: 30, three and nine months

Nationality: Israeli

The Silberman-Bibas’ story reads like many of those believed to have been captured from their homes on the kibbutz: their relatives last heard from them when they were hiding in a safe room as the militants invaded, then nothing since.

Shiri Silberman-Bibas’ husband Yarden reportedly texted relatives “I love you all” as the militants fired semi-automatic weapons outside their window, writing “they’re coming in” 30 minutes later before communication went quiet.

The family has not been heard from since, but social media footage since shared at a vigil outside Downing Street shows a distraught mother believed to be Shiri, a kindergarten teacher, clutching her two red-haired children as onlookers scream “she has a baby”.

My fear is that they separated them, that they killed them, that they're injured... that we will stay in this blank forever

Yosi, Shiri's cousin

“Let the children go,” read one of the placards next to Shiri’s image in Westminster this week. There is no sign of the father Yarden in the footage and Shiri’s parents Yosi and Margit Silberman, both in their late 60s, are also believed to be missing. Margit is a nursery teacher who suffers from Parkinson’s disease and is said to desperately need her medication.

“My fear’s that they separated them, that they killed them, that they’re injured, that we won't see them again, that we won’t even get any piece of information with them and we will stay in this blank forever,” Shiri’s cousin Yosi told Sky News this weekend, adding that his relatives’ disappearance had made him “want to go and fight”.

“I just hope that they are alive, and that they are together,” added Shiri’s niece Yifat Zailer. “And I want them home, with me, so I can hug them tightly again. We feel that those responsible don’t know what to do, because this is a situation we’ve never been in before. That’s the feeling in Israel. It’s a catastrophe.”

A grandmother forced to hold onto the soldiers who killed her husband

Adina Shalom

Age: 72

Nationality: Israeli

Holding onto the kidnappers who killed her husband. That’s the last image Adina Shalom’s family have of her right now.

The 72-year-old grandmother is believed to have been kidnapped from her home on Nir Oz, the kibbutz that she and her husband David, 75, helped to build. The couple had been hiding in their safe room when Hamas attacked, David holding onto the handle of the sealed room door in a bid to hold them off.

The fighters reportedly shot at the sealed room window and gained access, shooting David dead. His wife Adina was pulled through the window and taken hostage. Footage since shows her in a red T-shirt wedged between two Hamas terrorists on the back of a motorbike, terrified, but holding her head high.

You can see the kidnappers who killed her husband and put her on a motorcycle... and she has to hold onto him so she doesn't fall

Einav Moshe Barda, Adina's niece

“First, I couldn’t look at it because it’s so shocking; you can see the kidnappers who killed her husband and put her on a motorcycle … and she has to hold onto him so she doesn’t fall,” Adina’s niece Einav Moshe Barda told reporters last week.

Her granddaughter Anat Shoshany told reporters that Adina had heart surgery last year and is in Gaza without her medication.

She had reportedly always said that if terrorists came to her house, she would make her coffee and put out some cookies. When she gave up on that plan, they do not know.

The family livestreamed by their kidnappers

Noam Elyakim and his daughters Dafna and Ella

Ages: Unknown, 15 and eight

Nationality: British-Israeli

The Elyakim family’s kidnap was live-streamed by Hamas attackers, who entered their home in kibbutz Nahal Oz, shot the father Noam in the leg and filmed the whole thing using his wife’s phone.

Noam was later seen limping as he was taken across the border into Gaza.

A separate video of his two daughters Dafna, 15, and Ella, eight, being kidnapped has also surfaced, according to relatives.

A third-generation military student just doing her job

Roni Eshel (AP)
Roni Eshel (AP)

Roni Eshel

Age: 19

Nationality: Israeli

Roni Eshel, 19, was a military student when she is understood to have been kidnapped by Hamas. She had only returned from a holiday on the Wednesday, and was proud to be the third-generation of her family to serve in the Israeli military after her father and grandfather.

“I don’t know what to do,” said her father Eyal Eshel, who says he can’t eat, sleep or work while he awaits news of his daughter’s situation.

“I don’t know what to think, actually. Where is she? What is she eating? If it’s cold for her? If it’s hot? I don’t know nothing.”

I don't know what to think, actually. Where is she? What is she eating? If it's cold for her? If it's hot?

Eyal Eshel, Roni's father

Eshel had been working in a communications unit at a base near Nahal Oz near the Gaza border when Hamas attacked. She didn’t answer her phone when her mother called to check on her that morning, but did later text to say she was busy but OK.

“I love you so much,” she had told her mother, Sharon, roughly three hours after the attack started. Her parents have not heard from her since.

The military trainee taken in her pyjamas

Liri Elbag

Age: 18

Nationality: Israeli

Kidnapped in her pyjamas. This is what Shira Elbag — one of the women protesting in front of Israel’s defence ministry in Tel Aviv — believes happened to her daughter on the day Hamas attacked.

Like Eshel, Elbag’s daughter Liri, 18, was in the military and had just started training as an army lookout near the Gaza border when Hamas invaded. Her father Eli told the Associated Press he recognised her in a video released by Hamas, crowded onto the back of a military truck seized by the gunmen.

“[She was taken] to Gaza,” her mother Shira said at the demonstration on Saturday. “And I want her back now. She was in the military, she was in the army base. She’s 18 years old, just a child. But she doesn’t want to fight. Nobody wants to fight. I believe also in Gaza they don’t want to fight. Nobody wants to fight. Everybody just wants to live.”

The abducted restaurant manager stripped to his underwear

Omer Wenkert

Age: 22

Nationality: Israeli

Omer Wenkert, a restaurant manager from the central Israeli town of Gedera, was at the Tribe of Nova music festival when he was believed to be abducted.

He called his family at about 6.30am on the Saturday he and many of his fellow party-goers were taken, telling relatives he could hear shooting and could not find a way out. He sent a text saying he felt scared and helpless just before 8am. Then he stopped responding to their messages.

That evening, Wenkert’s father was sent a copy of a Telegram video showing his son on the back of a white pickup truck, stripped down to this underwear with his hands tied behind his back as men in military uniform shoot into the air.

They are basically pointing a gun at Omer and beating him with several guns. You can see him trying to protect his head

Ricardo Grichner, Omer's uncle

“The good news was that he was alive,” his uncle Ricardo Grichner has since told reporters. “There are no nice words to say what you can see in the movie. … They are basically pointing a gun at Omer and beating him with several guns. You can see him trying to protect his head.”

Analysis of the footage later confirmed that it was taken inside the Gaza Strip, just over three miles from the festival site. The sun suggests that it was recorded in the morning, so Wenkert and his fellow hostages are likely to have been taken between 8am and midday on Saturday.

A 21-year-old DJ who tried to escape by car

Omer Shem-Tov

Age: 21

Nationality: Israeli

Like Wenkert, Omer Shem-Tov — an Israeli DJ and regular festival-goer — was meant to be celebrating when he attended the Tribe of Nova music festival. Instead, the event quickly turned into a nightmare as he attempted to escape the attackers by car.

His father Malki Shem-Tov says he received multiple calls from his son between 6.30am and 9am on that Saturday morning, each one sounding “much more panicked”. “In one of the last calls, he said that people are shooting. He said … ‘I love you’,” says Malki.

“He told me that he’s starting to drive back. We asked him to send the live location,” his father continues.

I was trying to call him many times, to tell him he was going the wrong way. But he never answered

Malki Shem-Tov, Omer's father

“When I saw the live location, I saw … it was moving toward the border of Gaza. I was trying to call him many times, to tell him that he was going the wrong way. But he never answered.”

As with Wenkert’s family, it was a video published by Hamas militants that confirmed to the family that Omer was alive but a hostage. Malki says he recognised Omer and his friend in the footage and that they were moving, but it was still “the most horrible day” of his family’s life.

“We are praying and waiting for Omer to come back.”

The GIF-loving grandmother carried away in a golf cart

Yaffa Adar (AP)
Yaffa Adar (AP)

Yaffa Adar

Age: 85

Nationality: Israeli

Yaffa Adar’s grandchildren were supposed to be visiting her on the day she was kidnapped by Hamas in the Nir Oz kibbutz, not far from the Gaza Strip.

"She loved those visits,” says Orian Adar, 34, her granddaughter. “My two children are the joy of her life. She would do anything for them.”

Orian woke to the news of the terror attack on October 7 and quickly realised her family’s visit would have to be postponed. There were jokes on the family WhatsApp group about all the food Yaffa would have to eat by herself — even at 85, she loved keeping connected and would regularly sent them messages and GIFs on WhatsApp and Facebook.

Then Yaffa told them there were terrorists in the kibbutz and gunfighting in the streets. “The first thing I said was ‘Grandma, be careful’,” Orian recalls. She never heard back.

Despite the evil around her, her face was peaceful... She wouldn't let anyone see her in a humiliating situation

Orian Adar, Yaffa's granddaughter

Orian’s husband later found footage of Yaffa being paraded through the streets of Gaza by Hamas in a golf cart, draped in a pink blanket, looking calm. “I didn’t watch the whole video. I couldn’t face the reality,” Orian says. “The next day, people asked me if she had Alzheimer’s, and if she understood what was happening. I felt insulted by these questions. How dare they?”

Orian says her grandmother’s calm expression was a symbol of dignity and defiance, even though “every minute is a horror for her” without her medication for chronic pain and heart and lung conditions. “Despite the evil around her, her face was peaceful. She looked confident. She’s my grandmother. She helped build this country. She wouldn’t let anyone see her in a humiliating situation. It’s a façade. Inside, there’s an 85-year-old woman, alone and worried. She’s terrified, even if people find it hard to understand.”

A former social worker who could barely walk

Ditza Heiman

Age: 84

Nationality: Israeli

Ditza Heiman’s family knew something was wrong when Hamas terrorists answered her phone.

The former social worker and mother-of-four — whose late husband Zvi Shdaimah came to the UK on the Kindertransport during the Second World War — had been sheltering in the safe room at her home in the Nir Oz kibbutz when Hamas invaded, keeping in touch with her relatives by phone. “After 10 in the morning, she stopped answering me,” says her daughter Dafna Shai Heiman.

“All this time we kept trying to call, me and the rest of the family. Around late afternoon, I called again and someone answered me: ‘It’s Hamas, It’s Hamas’. I hung up and immediately called my brother. He called the police. My nephew also tried to call my mother, and again they told him it was Hamas.”

If there is no humanitarian aid and if they don't bring medicine to the older captives, they won't survive for long

Dafna Shai Heiman, Ditza's daughter

A neighbour later saw Heiman being led away from her home by Hamas gunmen.

Dafna says her mother is an “amazing woman, very honest”. She was widowed at a young age and raised four children on her own. She is also one of the founders of Kibbutz Nir Oz and the founder of the assistance unit at the Family Court in Be’er Sheva.

“An 84-year-old woman, barely walking, dependent on medication,” says Dafna. “She is not the only one. There is a group on the kibbutz of 80-year-olds who were kidnapped. We are helpless, it’s crazy anxiety and worry, the feeling that we have nothing to do. We can’t bring them to her. If there is no humanitarian aid and if they don’t bring medicine to the older captives, they won’t survive for long.”

Three-generations of family members, stolen from two homes

Carmella Dan, her son-in-law Ofer Kalderon and his children Sahar, Erez and Noya

Ages: 80, 50, 16, 12 and 12

Nationalities: Israeli

A grandmother, a father and three children across two separate homes. These are the five family members the Kalderon and Dan families believe were taken hostage from the hard-hit southern Israeli village of Nir Oz near the Gaza border when Hamas attacked.

The Kalderon children’s mother reportedly survived the attack after locking herself alone in the house secure room for eight hours. “For eight hours, she heard the terrorists cursing and kill people around her,” family friend Sabrina Belhassen-Nimtzovitch told reporters after the attack.

The mother reportedly last spoke to her ex-husband Ofer Kalderon on Saturday morning. He was at home with their two children and tried to leave the safe room, which his ex-wife feared was “a very big mistake”. “He tried to go back, but then the terrorists took him and took the two kids,” said Belhassen-Nimtzovitch.

He tried to go back, but then the terrorists took him and took the two kids

Sabrina Belhassen-Nimtzovitch, a family friend

Footage released later shows one of the youngest children, Erez, 12, being grabbed by the armed terrorists and pushed down a path. “We want them free as soon as possible,” Belhassen-Nimtzovitch said. “We are begging them not to harm them.”

Another relative Ido Dan told the BBC he fears for the health of their 80-year-old grandmother Carmella, who is also believed to have been kidnapped and without her medication.

The brother and sister shot at while they partied

May and Itay Regev (AP)
May and Itay Regev (AP)

Maya and Itay Regev

Ages: 21 and 18

Nationality: Israeli

The last time Ilan and Mirit Regev saw their children Maya, 21, and Itay, 18, they were in a rush to get to the Tribe of Nova music festival, promising their parents they would unpack their suitcases from the family holiday on their return.

The next time they heard from them was when Ilan’s phone rang the next morning. “Dad, they shot me, they shot me!” Maya was heard screaming from the festival in a recording the family has since released. “He is killing us, Dad, he is killing us.”

Ilan says he begged his daughter to send him her location and promised her he was on his way, jumping in his car from his home in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv. But he was barred from the festival site and later found Hamas footage of their son Itay in handcuffs in the back of a vehicle.

I want to know that my kids are alive. We don’t know if they are eating. We don’t know if they are drinking. If they are hurt

Ilan Regev, Maya and Itay's father

Maya was not pictured, but the Israeli army has since told the family that both children are being held as hostages in Gaza.

“I want to know that my kids are alive,” he says. “We don’t know if they are eating. We don’t know if they are drinking. If they are hurt.”

The elderly Israeli couple who'd spent 70 years in the kibbutz

Amiram and Nurit Cooper

Ages: 85 and 80

Nationality: Israeli

“I think about the terror they must have felt, as they were being pulled out,” says Rotem Cooper, a Californian man who believes his elderly parents Amiram, 85, and Nurit, 80, were kidnapped during the Hamas attacks.

The couple were among the first settlers in the kibbutz region nearly 70 years ago and were sheltering in their safe room when they heard reports of the gunmen on Saturday.

“They told me they basically closed themselves in that room, but there is no way to lock the door,” says Cooper.

The level of cruelty — it's not something we can process

Rotem Cooper, the couple's son

His parents stopped returning his messages shortly afterwards, but Cooper believes the bullet holes and lack of blood left at their home suggests they were taken hostage rather than killed.

Like many of the relatives of the suspected hostages, he is concerned about his parents’ survival if they do not receive their regular medicines. “The level of cruelty — it’s not something we can process. You just can’t comprehend it.”

A family of 10 celebrating the Sukkot holiday

10 members of the Haran family

Ages: 65 to three

Nationalities: Israeli, German, Austrian, Italian

Ten. That’s how many members of Shoshan Haran’s family are believed to have been taken hostage by Hamas militants, its members spanning grandparents and children as young as three.

The Israeli family had gathered at the home of Shoshan, 67, and her husband Avashalom, 66, to celebrate the Sukkot holiday on the kibbutz. Their psychologist daughter Adi, 38, was there, along with her husband Tal and their two cihldren Yael Neri, three, and Naveh, eight. Avshalom’s sister Sharon Avigdori, a special needs psycholgist, and her daughter Noam, 12, were also there.

Shoshan’s sister Lilach Kipnis, 60, a psychotherapist who works with children with trauma, and her husband Eviatar Moshe Kipnis, 65, who has an auto-immune condition, were also celebrating with them, along with his carer Paul Vincent Castelvi, who is also missing.

They are just the most loving, caring real family. Very genuine and very modest and humble

Annalee Milstein, Shoshan's daughter-in-law

“I fear the worst, but they may still be alive and may be being held hostage,” their son Yotam Kipnis told reporters after the attack. “I don’t know where anyone is or whether my father has been separated from his carer [he has an auto-immune condition]. I want people to know about the situation of the hostages in Gaza and I want the situation to end as quickly as possible with the lowest number of casualties and the least damage.”

Annalee Milstein, 34, who is married to Shoshan and Avshalom’s son Yuval, 36, and also lives on the kibbutz but happens to have travelled to a music festival that weekend, described them as “just the most loving, caring real family. Very genuine and very modest and humble.”

She recounts the events of that morning: “We called them, we actually were able to reach Yuval’s mother Shoshan on the phone. She answered us whispering. We didn’t understand why she was whispering. She said they were all together in the panic room. It’s half past six in the morning. A few minutes later we went into the internal app of the kibbutz and we started seeing people sending live messages and we understood it’s not just a regular missile shooting.

“We tried to call them [but] they didn’t answer us anymore and then we started texting them. We asked them what’s happening, who is there, if they are okay. They said they were all together in the panic room. They are very scared, they hear gunshots all over, they hear terrorists shouting. They [say they] are in deep trouble and they don’t know if they’ll survive it.”

The responses stopped at 10.30am. “That was the last time they had contact with them,” says Milstein.

An injured airport worker who thought twice about attending the festival

Karin Journo (AP)
Karin Journo (AP)

Karin Journo

Age: 24

Nationality: French-Israeli

Airport worker Karin Journo, 24, had originally sold her ticket for the Tribe of Nova music festival. She had a fracture in her right leg, and decided not to go.

But a week before the festival, she bought another ticket. She didn’t want to miss out when so many of her friends would be attending.

A selfie she took before the event shows her doing the peace sign in a mirror, dressed in black shorts and a black halterneck crop top, and footage from the festival that night shows her waving her arms to the music dressed in her grey protective boot.

My daughter didn't go to war. She just went to dance

Doron Journo, Karin's father

The boot makes her easy to identify in footage since released by Hamas. Clips show her anxiously sheltering behind a car with a friend, explosions firing off in the background. She is also seen sitting next to the door of an ambulance in a brown hoodie.

“My daughter didn’t go to war,” says her distraught father Doron Journo. “She just went to dance.”

The elderly peace campaigner who didn’t want her son to worry

Vivian Silver

Age: 74

Nationality: Canadian-Israeli

Vivian Silver, 74, was best known as one of Israel’s most renowned peace campaigners before she was taken hostage.

The silver-haired grandmother had been widowed and kept herself busy in her retirement, driving cancer-striken Gaza residents to hospital for treatment and holding meetings with international supporters of her peace group Women Wage Peace right up until days before the Hamas attacks.

Her son Yonatan Ziegen says he spoke to his mother as militants stormed the kibbutz where she lived, her making light of what was happening in a bid to stop her son from worrying.

She wrote me, 'They're inside the house, it's time to stop joking and say goodbye

Yonatan Ziegen, Vivian's son

Quickly, they both realised the seriousness of the situation. They switched to WhatsApp so she could stay quiet as she sheltered in a cupboard.

“She wrote me, ‘They’re inside the house, it’s time to stop joking and say goodbye’,” he recalls.

“And I wrote back that ‘I love you, Mum. I have no words, I’m with you.’ Then she writes, ‘I feel you.’ And then that was it, that’s the last message.”