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Families of hostages taken by Hamas militants are desperate amid threats of execution

Ido Dan, an uncle to three children feared abducted by Hamas and taken to Gaza, stands for a portrait with his twin daughters. The remnants of their sixth birthday party, which took place the same day as the incursion, are still around the house.
Tanya Habjouqa
/
NOOR
Ido Dan, an uncle to three children feared abducted by Hamas and taken to Gaza, stands for a portrait with his twin daughters. The remnants of their sixth birthday party, which took place the same day as the incursion, are still around the house.

Updated October 11, 2023 at 10:22 AM ET

TEL AVIV — Dirty dishes are piled high in 51-year-old Ido Dan's home these days. Party decorations from a weekend birthday party for his twin 6-year-old girls are still up. The tech start-up coach has spent every waking moment trying to find out the whereabouts of several family members who disappeared Saturday after Hamas militants stormed into their towns killing civilians and taking others hostage.

An NPR Morning Edition team in Israel spoke with Dan following the attack.

"If there's one message that I want to pass to the Hamas is whatever your objectives or goals are, leave the elderly and the kids out of it," Dan said. "Just release them first. Please, just let them go."

"I don't think I ever saw anything like that," Dan added. "Even with the worst terror attacks in Israel against Israel, never, ever."

Families across Israel are frantically trying to look for any clues about their loved ones who are believed to be held in the Gaza Strip. Images and videos are starting to emerge and circulate on social media showing civilians — some of them children — being forcefully led away from their homes by armed Hamas militants.

One of those videos that's been circulating shows Dan's 12-year-old relative, Erez.

Don believes he's being held in the Gaza Strip. And inside Gaza, residents are already deep in a humanitarian crisis just five days into this war between Israel and Hamas. There are no humanitarian corridors to bring in medical supplies and aid in the midst of a siege by Israeli forces and retaliatory air strikes. The strikes have killed more than 1,055 people, among them some 500 women and children. Entire families have been killed and there's no way for people to leave. Israel has cut off food, fuel, water and electricity. And by Wednesday afternoon the International Committee of the Red Cross said the main power plant shut off because it had no fuel. Gaza is in the dark.


For all the latest developments on this story, listen live to Morning Edition now.


The fate of the hostages in the midst of all this is also unclear. The military wing of Hamas has threatened to execute a hostage for every bomb that's dropped on a home without warning.

So far Hamas has not publicly acted on its threat to kill any of them.

Dan remains hopeful that those are empty threats. He replays the video of his nephew and seizes on something he hears one of the militants say.

Ido holds a photo of his nephew, Erez, who is 11 years old, on his phone in his hand. Erez is feared to be have been abducted and there is a video circulating believed to show the moment a Hamas fighter grabbed him.
Tanya Habjouqa / NOOR for NPR
/
NOOR
Ido holds a photo of his nephew, Erez, who is 11 years old, on his phone in his hand. Erez is feared to be have been abducted and there is a video circulating believed to show the moment a Hamas fighter grabbed him.

"What it says in Arabic is don't hurt him, don't hurt him" said Dan, adding that the hostages are more likely being held as "a precious bargaining chip."

But Dan is still alarmed not only by the way Hamas carried out such a highly choreographed invasion that involved more than 1000 militant fighters and the "killings and murders and ruthless humiliation of bodies we saw only with ISIS." He is also concerned how Israel's intelligence services were blindsided by an attack that many in Israel say is the country's 9/11 .

"I think that if the government — from the soldiers at the border, through the commanders, through the minister of defense, through the prime minister — all should at least be kicked out, go home or maybe even be in jail. I don't understand what happened here. Nobody can," Dan said.


For all the latest developments on this story, listen live to Morning Edition now.


The radio version of this story was produced by Taylor Haney and Nina Kravinsky and edited by Arezou Rezvani. The digital version was produced by Rachel Treisman and edited by Treye Green.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Arezou Rezvani is a senior editor for NPR's Morning Edition and founding editor of Up First, NPR's daily news podcast.