Families in the United States and Israel continued to pray Wednesday for loved ones missing after a brutal attack by Hamas that killed more than 1,000 people in Israel over the weekend, including 22 American citizens, according to US officials.
Among the Americans killed were an “idealist” who saved his son from an attacker’s bullets and a nurse from California who moved to Israel to care for her parents.
White House officials said Wednesday that at least 17 Americans remain missing in Israel, although it is unclear how many are being held hostage by Hamas, the Palestinian group that controls Gaza and carried out the attacks. “We have to brace ourselves for the very clear possibility that these numbers will continue to rise,” said John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council.
President Biden promised on Tuesday that he would make every effort to find and rescue the missing. “I have no higher priority than the safety of Americans held hostage around the world,” he said in a speech from the White House. Officials said they are in contact with the families of the missing and are keeping them informed.
U.S. officials have not released the identities of the missing Americans, but based on media and family reports, they appear to include dual citizens who served in the Israeli military, as well as a mother and daughter from the Chicago area who were visiting family in Israel and 23- a year old attending a music festival that was targeted by Hamas.
Here’s what we know about them.
Nahar Neta fought back tears at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday as he described how he made phone calls trying to calm his 66-year-old mother, Adrienne. She was born and raised in California and lived on a kibbutz near the Gaza border.
His siblings were talking to her as the attackers broke into her home in Be’era, he said. They heard a scream, he added, and haven’t heard from her since.
Rachel Goldberg said she woke up Saturday in Jerusalem to the sound of sirens warning of incoming rocket fire. Her 23-year-old son Hersh Goldberg-Polin was at a music festival near the Gaza border. When she turned on her phone 10 minutes later, she saw two consecutive text messages from him that read “I love you” and “I’m sorry.”
Ms. Goldberg — who moved with her family from California to Jerusalem in 2008 — has not heard from her son since. She said on Tuesday that the only thing police could tell her was that his last known cellphone signal was near the Gaza border.
Judith Raanan and Natalie Raanan
A mother and daughter from Evanston, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, were visiting relatives in Nahal Oz, a kibbutz less than a mile from the Israel-Gaza border. Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein, executive director of Chabad of Evanston, said they had not heard from him since Saturday.
Natalie recently graduated from high school, Rabbi Klein said. He described her mother as someone who could talk to a wide range of people, from older members of the congregation to younger students at Northwestern University.
“This was a woman who was full of hope,” Rabbi Klein said. “And I know he has the resilience to overcome his tormentors.”
Ruby Chen said his 19-year-old son Itay, who served in the Israeli army, had been missing since Saturday. He asked President Biden and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken to “do everything they can to get this done for us as soon as possible.”
Among the killed
In her final moments, Deborah Martias, who was born in Missouri and whose father is a longtime professor at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, covered her teenage son with her body to protect him, her relatives told several news outlets Tuesday.
In the moments before she and her husband, Shlomi Martias, were killed by assailants who broke into the family home, Mrs. Martias was on the phone with her father, Ilan Troen, he he told in a television interview. Mr Troen said she heard glass breaking, gunshots and people speaking in Arabic.
Her 16-year-old son Rotem was shot in the stomach but survived, hiding until he could be rescued.
Mr Troen described his daughter and son-in-law as “idealists”. They lived in Kibbutz Holit, a small community just over a mile from Gaza, and sent their children to a school that taught both Hebrew and Arabic, he said, in the hope that better understanding between Jews and Arabs could “change the course of history.” here.”
The peace activist, Mr. Katsman, was initially believed to have been taken hostage on Saturday, but was later found murdered in his home in Kibbutz Holit. He studied conservative trends and radicalism within the Zionist religious community, played bass guitar and worked as a DJ playing Arabic music.
He did gardening and landscaping at the kibbutz, said his mother, Hannah Wacholder Katsman, who described him in a text message as “very hardworking and independent.” She said he was born in Israel but acquired dual citizenship in the United States.
Mr. Katsman recently completed his PhD at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he was co-coordinator of the Israeli-Palestinian Research Group. His PhD was entitled “Religious Nationalism in Israel/Palestine”. It is unusual for Israelis to call the region that way, and not just “Israel” or “Israel and the Occupied Territories”.
A nurse described by her family as an “angel,” Daniel Ben-Senior, 34, was born in California but moved to Israel to help care for her parents.
She attended a music festival attacked by Hamas, and was initially considered among the missing. Israeli authorities told her family on Wednesday that she had been shot, said her cousin Ran Ben-Senior, who lives in New York.
“It’s a nightmare,” he said.
He contributed to the reporting Peter Baker, Colby Edmonds, Nadav Gavrielov and Hiba Yazbek. Kirsten Noyes contributed to the research.