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Almost 2 months into the struggle, many Israelis don’t know if their family members are {dead} or alive

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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 automobile he and three buddies tried to flee in after Hamas militants attacked the music competition they had been attending in southern Israel.

The buddies had 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 among dozens of individuals nonetheless unaccounted for after Hamas infiltrated Israel, killing some 1,200 individuals and taking about 240 hostages.

A few of the our bodies of those that died had 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 stay in limbo.

“It’s an enormous nightmare,” Yablonka’s niece, Emanuel Abady, advised The Related Press. “Is he alive, is he {dead}, or the place is the physique? Possibly he’s in Gaza. … Possibly he received harm, perhaps he received shot, however he’s in Gaza.”

Within the instant aftermath of the assault, police, the army and investigators grappled with a mass casualty crime scene, attempting to establish the {dead} and the kidnapped. Getting clear solutions for individuals’s whereabouts and the variety of {dead} was, and stays, difficult.

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In November, the army adjusted the variety of individuals 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 advised The Related Press that dozens of individuals’s fates had 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 {dead} was adjusted.

The army mentioned it has enlisted the assistance of archaeologists to use excavation strategies utilized in burned and broken historical websites to assist establish victims. The consultants have helped establish no less than 10 individuals.

Some individuals initially thought to have been taken hostage had been proclaimed {dead}, 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 had 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 army 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 had been extra intact, based on forensic specialists. However the remaining stretch has grow to be painstaking with the necessity to sift by way of charred bones making it more durable to extract and match DNA. Different technique of identification, akin to fingerprints or dental information, can’t be used.

“It’s a lengthy course of, generally we don’t have the proper bone or the proper pattern as a way to give the reply. … When you’ve tough samples it takes time,” mentioned Gila Kahila Bar-Gal, an professional in wildlife forensic and historical DNA analysis who has been volunteering on the Nationwide Institute of Forensic Drugs to assist establish victims. It could actually take as much as twice as lengthy to establish burned bones, she mentioned.

It’s additionally been difficult to find out how many individuals had 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 size of who was taken and who’s holding everybody,” mentioned Mairav Zonszein, senior analyst on Israel for the Worldwide Disaster Group.

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

Yablonka was among the many hundreds who attended the Tribe of Nova Trance music competition close to the border with Gaza. A father of two, he liked music, Abady mentioned. However his household did not know he’d gone to the competition 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 acquired by the household and seen by the AP reveals a person the household says is Yablonka in a packed competition parking zone, at one level crouching behind a automobile. Simply earlier than 7 a.m., one among his buddies, a person, known as Israel’s emergency service from the automobile, saying somebody had been shot. Textual content messages despatched by the 2 girls with them to their households mentioned Yablonka was driving and so they had been attempting to flee.

One other video proven to the household revealed the broken automobile with its again window blown out and shattered glass, a backpack and garments strewn on the seat. The automobile was discovered close to Mefalsim Kibbutz, a couple of kilometers (miles) from the competition website, with the our bodies of Yablonka’s three buddies close by, Abady mentioned.

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

The stress and anxiousness of not realizing what occurred to a liked one takes an enormous psychological and emotional toll, mentioned Sarah Davies, a spokesperson for the Worldwide Committee of the Pink Cross.

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

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 had 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, mentioned Liel’s cousin, Sagi Shifroni.

Whereas the stays of Liel’s brother and aunt had been shortly recognized, there was no hint of Liel for weeks, he mentioned.

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

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

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Extra information at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.



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