Israelis search for loved ones with posts and pleas on social media

In the hours following an unprecedented, multi-front attack on Israel by the ruling Palestinian Hamas militant group in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, Israelis searched for loved ones with posts and pleas on social media. 

Posts have flooded a Facebook group set up for Israelis who might be missing in the aftermath of the attacks. Family members post photos with a description of who is missing and the last time they have heard from their loved ones.  One poster wrote in Hebrew, “Tamar…is nowhere to be found,” and, “If anyone has any info please update me urgently!”

Another poster wrote that she was looking for her brother Sharon. She wrote, “Please help me guys!” 

Another wrote they were looking for their beloved daughter Noam, who was on the phone at 8:30 a.m. in the morning when gunshots started. 

Another was looking for her son Raz, the mother wrote she hadn’t heard from him since the morning.  

One poster said her friends Yuval and Moshe were missing and “she begs them to talk to me.”

At least 250 people in Israel have been killed and 1,500 wounded in the Hamas militant group’s incursion in southern Israel, according to Magen David Adom, Israel’s national emergency services agency. 

“And these are not the final figures,” said Jonathan Conricus, an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson late Saturday night during a live update on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter.

The death toll makes it the deadliest attack in Israel in decades. The Israeli military confirmed Saturday that Hamas militants are holding Israeli civilians and soldiers hostage in Gaza. The military did not say how many hostages were seized, but their capture marks a major escalation in the fighting.

Many of the photos posted are of young Israelis attending a party near Kibbutz Re’im in Southern Israel. The Associated Press and Israeli media outlets reported that hundreds of terrified young people who had been dancing at the rave fled for their lives after Hamas militants entered the area and began firing at them. 

Israeli media said dozens of people were killed. Haaretz, one of Israel’s largest newspapers, described the scene as a “massacre” and a “battlefield,” and reported that terrorists on motorcycles drove into the crowd “opening fire.” The Times of Israel, citing Israel’s Channel 12, reported that dozens of bodies were being removed from the area.  

Saturday was Simchat Torah, a normally joyous day when Jews complete the annual cycle of reading the Torah scroll, and many Israelis were celebrating. 

Handwritten lists and Google documents with names and descriptions of missing Israelis appeared on social media, but those lists have not been verified. 

One poster wrote, “The hours keep passing and not a single word of our people.”

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