By Farouq Suleiman and Natalie Thomas
LONDON (Reuters) – When news reached Sharone Lifschitz at her home in London that hundreds of Hamas gunmen had entered Israel from the Gaza Strip and rampaged through nearby towns on Saturday, she anxiously called her elderly parents. There was no answer.
Lifschitz now fears they are among the scores of Israeli and foreign hostages taken back to Gaza by the militants. But she says she will not be overcome by hate as she waits for information about the fate of her parents, both in their 80s.
“We have to look at it in the eyes and say no, no, we are not just going to do hate because this is what they want. They want me now to hate,” she said defiantly from her end-of-terrace home on a leafy street in north London.
“They want me to engage in this senseless horrendous violence of the mind, of the body, and we cannot let that be the story,” she told Reuters.
Her parents lived in Nir Oz, a kibbutz in southern Israel which means ‘field of strength’ in Hebrew. They were one of the founding members of the community and raised her and three of her brothers there.
She said her father, a retired journalist, was a peace activist and often drove his car to the Gaza border to pick up Palestinians who needed medical treatment that could not be given in the enclave to hospitals in East Jerusalem and other parts of the country.
Conflict was always there in the background.
“This is something we are very used to … we have lived on a border in which there’s an exchange of missiles regularly, and so there is a safe room,” Lifschitz told Reuters.
Just a week before the attacks, her three brothers and their families, as well as other family members had stayed with her parents for the weekend. But the couple were alone when Saturday’s attacks took place, the deadliest day of violence in Israel since the Yom Kippur war 50 years ago.
“I have not heard anything from my parents. Nothing, and not from my friend’s daughter and not from anyone,” said Lifschitz, a 52-year-old artist and university lecturer.
“My mum uses oxygen support, my father takes medicine for lung disease,” she told Reuters.
Israel has said it had identified 97 hostages and warned there would be no humanitarian exceptions to its siege of the Gaza Strip until all were freed as it vowed to destroy the Hamas movement.
“It builds to break our hearts, our souls, our belief in humanity,” Lifschitz said. “And we need your help. We need the world’s help to bring those survivors back home.”
(Writing by Farouq Suleiman; Editing by Andrew Heavens)