A 21-year-old Israeli woman said she was in despair and had “no tears left” after her father, sister, grandmother and cousin went missing on Saturday after Hamas militants attacked their kibbutz and video emerged showing her 12-year-old brother being taken by gunmen.
Gaya Kalderon, speaking from Tel Aviv, begged for the safe return of her family, taken from houses in Nir Oz kibbutz.
“We just need them back. It doesn’t matter that we don’t have a home anymore, it is all burned, I just need them back,” she said.
Kalderon said she was woken in Tel Aviv by sirens on Saturday morning, as Islamist Hamas gunmen crossed from Gaza and began their rampage through towns in the deadliest attack in Israel’s history. A friend then told her that Hamas had entered the kibbutz.
She called her family to ask if they were ok. They told her they were not and that they did not know what was happening. In a messaging app group for her family her younger sister then wrote “Mom I love you.”
“I knew it is probably because she knows it is the end or something,” said Kalderon, adding she had protected her 16-year-old sister her whole life.
Video emerged on social media in which Kalderon said she can see her younger brother Erez being taken away by gunmen. She sees them pinching him and he flinches.
“It was so hard to watch… I never felt like this, I don’t even have tears any more in my eyes, I can’t cry because I cried so much,” she said.
“He had his pyjamas on, he just woke up in the middle of the night and someone came and took him.”
Her brother and sister were in a house with their father, while her grandmother and cousin were in a separate house. The whereabouts of all five is unknown. Her mother and elder brother were in another house and survived.
“I called my mom and never heard her like that. She was screaming ‘where are my children’,” said Kalderon.
She added that in the video Erez did not appear to have blood on him, which gave her hope that he was alive and the family were all together.
On the video a voice says in Arabic, “Those are young settlers, keep them here. Don’t hurt them, 100%, be wise with people like these, this is a child.”
Israeli authorities have said the death toll from the weekend Hamas attacks has surpassed 1,000.
Gaza’s health ministry said Israel’s retaliatory air strikes had killed at least 830 people and wounded 4,250.
Kalderon pleaded that her family not be forgotten.
“Think about my little brother, little sister, my father… I don’t want to say it but it reminds me of the Holocaust.”