SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — An unknown number of people are unaccounted for in Israel nearly a week after the attacks and mass kidnappings by Hamas terrorists, including the stepson of a Sarasota woman.
Gillian Kaye said U.S. and Israeli officials have told her family there is no evidence Hamas is holding 35-year-old Sagui Dekel-Chen hostage.
“They say people have a heart of a lion,” Kaye said while holding a picture of her stepson. “This is a guy like that.”
When the Hamas massacre began in Kibbutz Nir Oz along Israel’s border with Gaza, Kaye said her stepson started warning families of the imminent danger. Kaye said her stepson secured his pregnant wife and two daughters in their home’s safe room.
While terrorists shot their way into some of the shelters, Kaye said Dekel-Chen rigged the door so it wouldn’t open.
His wife and two children survived the attack, but the dual US-Israeli citizen has not been heard from since Saturday.
“We know that he was defending his family because it was heard by his wife through the door of the shelter, which is very thick, so must have been really loud and that’s the last we heard,” Kaye said.
Kaye’s husband has a home on the Kibbutz. She said around 400 people lived there before the surprise attack.
“160 are accounted for,” Kaye said. “So that means all of the rest are either dead, missing or captive.”
On a Zoom call Friday, Kaye said President Joe Biden spoke to her husband and the families of Americans who are missing or being held hostage.
“[My husband] said the president was absolutely fantastic,” she said. “Just incredibly supportive of the families and kept reiterating his support. These are my people, we’re going to bring them back.”
Kaye said she feels like she’s been walking on quicksand since Dekel-Chen’s disappearance.
“The most important thing is to just keep going forward with the belief we’re going to get him home,” she said.
And while the war rages on, as Israel prepares for a ground invasion in Gaza, Kaye is holding onto hope that one day there will be no more violence between Israelis and Palestinians.
“Everybody wants peace,” Kaye said. “Palestinians, Israelis, we’ve been on the precipice of it. We lost it. Everyone wants peace. The Palestinian people are not Hamas. Hamas needs to be eradicated. Hamas, they keep the Palestinian people captive as our hostages are.”
Kaye said she’s also received incredible support from Florida Republicans in Congress.
She has been in touch with the offices of Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Vern Buchanan and Rep. Greg Steube.
Biden is pledging to do “everything possible” to find the missing Americans in Israel.