Israel is believed to have identified most of the hostages abducted by the militant group Hamas and has begun notifying their families.
Israel Defense Forces officials were due to tell about 100 families on Tuesday that their loved ones were in Gaza. The Times of Israel quoted Israeli military radio as saying.
For some, the announcements will confirm what they already knew from recognizing relatives in the bloodied and terrifying scenes of people being dragged into Palestinian territory after Hamas’s lightning attack last weekend. These videos were filmed by Hamas and shared through social media and WhatsApp groups.
Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, said the total number of hostages taken was between 100 and 150.
The fate of the hostages is unclear. Israeli airstrikes hit Gaza in intense waves every four hours, collapsing apartments. Gaza’s health ministry said at least 770 Palestinians died and 4,000 were injured. Hamas airstrikes on Monday killed four hostages and their captors.
The Qassam Forces, Hamas’ armed wing, have threatened to execute a hostage on civilian targets without warning for each new Israeli airstrike.
Israel said on Monday it would cut off electricity, food, fuel and water in a “total siege” of the tightly packed region of 2.3 million people. More than 1,000 Israelis were killed in the Hamas attack, officials said.
The uncertainty over the hostages is a serious dilemma for the Israeli military as it plans a ground offensive in Gaza and a harrowing ordeal for the hostages’ relatives.
Yossi Sneider told the BBC His horror after seeing a picture of his cousin Shiri Pip and her two children, four-year-old Ariel and nine-month-old Kafir, surrounded by militants. Later in a video she said she saw Pip crying and holding her children.
Sneider said Pip, a kindergarten teacher who lived on a kibbutz, was gentle and kind. “She didn’t deserve this experience; Nobody does. I have no words to describe this. Pip’s parents, Margit and Yossi Silverman, and her husband, Yarden, are also missing, she said. Margaret has Parkinson’s and diabetes.
Uncertainty torments relatives. Jennifer Tomdy said she hasn’t slept since learning her daughter, Kim Tomdy, 22, was missing, an Irish-Israeli citizen attending the Supernova ceremony. “All I can think about is where is she, if she’s suffering, if she’s still alive, I’ve got to get her back,” Tomtie said. told ABC News.
Qatar is reportedly seeking a deal with Hamas to release Israeli women and children in return for Israel releasing 36 Palestinian women and children from Israeli prisons.
Several foreigners, including at least two Mexican nationals, three Brazilians and an unknown number of US citizens, are feared to have been taken hostage.
The Israeli military said it had set up a situation room to compile and monitor information on hostages, including soldiers. The police and the army’s Home Front Command have set up a situation room to identify those killed in Hamas attacks. People with missing relatives lined up outside a police station to provide DNA samples and other means to facilitate identification, The Times of Israel reported.