Almost 2 months into the warfare, many Israelis do not know if their family are useless or alive



JERUSALEM — There was no hint of Hanan Yablonka — not on the 42-year-old Israeli’s social media accounts nor on his cellphone, discovered within the bullet-riddled automotive he and 4 associates tried to flee in after Hamas militants attacked the music pageant they have been attending in southern Israel.

The chums have been killed within the Oct. 7 assault. However practically two months later, Yablonka’s household nonetheless has no information about what occurred to him. He’s one in every of dozens of individuals nonetheless unaccounted for after Hamas infiltrated Israel, killing some 1,200 folks and taking about 240 hostages.

A few of the our bodies of those that died have been so badly burned in fires or explosions in the course of the assaults that there’s little left to establish. Others who may nonetheless be alive haven’t been traced, forcing households to dwell in limbo.

“It’s a giant nightmare,” Yablonka’s niece, Emanuel Abady, instructed The Related Press. “Is he alive, is he useless, or the place is the physique? Perhaps he’s in Gaza. … Perhaps he bought harm, perhaps he bought shot, however he’s in Gaza.”

Within the rapid aftermath of the assault, police, the navy and investigators grappled with a mass casualty crime scene, attempting to establish the useless and the kidnapped. Getting clear solutions for folks’s whereabouts and the variety of useless was, and stays, difficult.

In November, the navy adjusted the variety of folks killed from greater than 1,400 to roughly 1,200, however didn’t specify why. It’s additionally repeatedly up to date the variety of hostages believed to have been taken into Gaza. Israeli officers instructed The Related Press that dozens of individuals’s fates have been nonetheless unknown, however would not reply to a number of requests for remark about why it’s taken so lengthy to establish them and why the variety of useless was adjusted.

The navy stated it has enlisted the assistance of archaeologists to use excavation strategies utilized in burned and broken historic websites to assist establish victims. The consultants have helped establish at the least 10 folks.

Some folks initially thought to have been taken hostage have been proclaimed useless, together with Vivian Silver, a Canadian-born Israeli peace activist whose household was just lately notified she’d been killed. Others thought to have been killed have been discovered to have been kidnapped, like 9-year-old Emily Tony Korenberg Hand, who was launched Saturday.

Our bodies and different human stays have been taken to the Shura navy base in central Israel, now transformed right into a morgue for the identification of victims.

At the beginning, it was simpler to establish our bodies that have been extra intact, in accordance with forensic specialists. However the ultimate stretch has grow to be painstaking with the necessity to sift by way of charred bones making it tougher to extract and match DNA. Different technique of identification, equivalent to fingerprints or dental information, can’t be used.

“It’s a lengthy course of, generally we don’t have the fitting bone or the fitting pattern to be able to give the reply. … When you’ve got tough samples it takes time,” stated Gila Kahila Bar-Gal, a professor at Jerusalem’s Hebrew College who’s an professional in wildlife forensics and historic DNA analysis and has been volunteering on the Nationwide Institute of Forensic Medication to assist establish victims. It could possibly take as much as twice as lengthy to establish burned bones, she stated.

It’s additionally been difficult to find out how many individuals have been kidnapped within the chaos that ensued when Hamas penetrated from Gaza into Israel.

“Many individuals ended up storming by way of the barrier that day: civilians, militants and Hamas, and it’s nonetheless fairly unclear the dimensions of who was taken and who’s holding everybody,” stated Mairav Zonszein, senior analyst on Israel for the Worldwide Disaster Group.

Yablonka’s niece believes her uncle remains to be alive and was seemingly kidnapped. Via video, textual content messages and cellphone calls the household has pieced collectively the previous few hours earlier than he disappeared.

Yablonka was among the many hundreds who attended the Tribe of Nova Trance music pageant close to the border with Gaza. A father of two, he cherished music, Abady stated. However his household did not know he’d gone to the pageant, and it was solely once they hadn’t heard from him late on Oct. 7 that they began making calls, combing by way of social media and contacting the police.

When the sirens warning of Hamas rockets went off that morning, surveillance video obtained by the household and seen by the AP exhibits a person the household says is Yablonka in a packed pageant car parking zone, at one level crouching behind a automotive. Simply earlier than 7 a.m., one in every of his associates, a person, referred to as Israel’s emergency service from the automotive, saying somebody had been shot. Textual content messages despatched by the 2 ladies with them to their households stated Yablonka was driving and so they have been attempting to flee.

One other video proven to the household revealed the broken automotive with its again window blown out and shattered glass, a backpack and garments strewn on the seat. The automotive was discovered close to Mefalsim Kibbutz, just a few kilometers (miles) from the pageant website, with the our bodies of Yablonka’s associates close by, Abady stated.

There was no hint of Yablonka, together with any blood splatter. His keys, cellphone and identification doc have been inside. The household has offered DNA samples, together with Yablonka’s dental information and medical data in hopes he might be discovered and recognized.

The stress and anxiousness of not figuring out what occurred to a cherished one takes an enormous psychological and emotional toll, stated Sarah Davies, a spokesperson for the Worldwide Committee of the Purple Cross.

“They’re dwelling with a gaping gap of their lives. Numerous eventualities run by way of the thoughts of members of the family … imagining the worst and being unable to do something about it,” she stated.

For some households, it was too painful to attend for solutions.

In early November, Liel Hetzroni’s household put a number of the 12-year-old’s garments, private belongings and ashes from the place they thought she’d died inside a coffin and buried it alongside her twin brother and aunt.

The three have been trapped in a home with dozens of others in Kibbutz Be’eri throughout an hourslong standoff between Hamas and Israeli troopers that resulted in an explosion, killing practically everybody inside, stated Liel’s cousin, Sagi Shifroni.

Whereas the stays of Liel’s brother and aunt have been rapidly recognized, there was no hint of Liel for weeks, he stated.

“The ready (wasn’t) wholesome for the soul or for our household,” Shifroni stated. Shortly after they buried the coffin, the military knowledgeable them that one in every of her bones had been discovered.

“It feels good to get an approval for what we knew already,” he stated. “It is closure.”


This story has been up to date to appropriate the quantity of people that tried to flee with Yablonka from three to 4.


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