Massacre at Israeli music festival: Family receive calls claiming to be from kidnappers

Relatives cling to hope that loved ones are still alive after more than 260 killed at site

Adi Maizel, 21, was among the hundreds of revellers at the Nova music festival at the Gaza - Israel border, that was attacked by Hamas militants on Saturday morning. Photo: Supplied
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The family of a woman missing in the aftermath of the Nova Music Festival massacre believe she was kidnapped and that her captors are taunting them with phone calls.

At least 260 people were confirmed to have died at the Israeli music festival attacked by Hamas fighters on Saturday.

Revellers at the all-night Nova rave at Kibbutz Re'im, near the Gaza border, were gunned down by militants who arrived by microlight planes.

Several other festivalgoers, who avoided the bullets, are believed to have been kidnapped and taken across the border to Gaza.

One Israeli family said they had received taunting phone calls from those they believed kidnapped their daughter.

“I am getting phone calls on my WhatsApp from Arab numbers. I hear women screaming in the background and they are telling me 'We are Hamas … and you have beautiful daughters'," said Uhuva Maizel, mother of Adi Maizel, 21.

I am getting phone calls on my WhatsApp from Arab numbers. I hear women screaming in the background
Uhuva Maizel, mother of Adi Maizel, 21

Ms Maizel was among the hundreds attacked by Hamas at the festival on Saturday morning.

Her mother said her "beautiful and wonderful daughter" went along with a friend to the one-day festival.

The last they heard from her was at 7.40am on Saturday morning when Hamas gunmen landed near the event.

"We heard a lot of noises and shooting and bombing,” said the mother over a Zoom call with the media on Monday.

“Since then, we have no accurate information about her. We don’t know what condition she is in. We don’t know if she is dead or alive.

Aftermath of Hamas attack on Israeli music festival

Aftermath of Hamas attack on Israeli music festival

"We don’t know if she is somewhere bleeding. We don’t know if someone abducted her. We are helpless, completely helpless as her parents."

There has been no official confirmation of any kidnappings from the event, raising the possibility the calls are the work of pranksters, given contact numbers of the victims were shared on a lost-and-found Facebook page.

"They know our distress and they are using it in the lowest level of … mankind,” the mother said.

"Adi, you are not alone. Everyone is looking for you. You will be saved,” she added, hoping that her daughter could be listening.

Families fear the worst

Other families are finding solace in WhatsApp messages they received from loved ones, who remain missing, and are praying for their safe return.

“Everything is OK, we are at a safe house,” was the last message Zoya, 22, (name changed at her family’s request) sent to her brother at 7am, soon after the attack began.

“That is the last we heard from her. We don’t know what happened to her after that,” Zoya’s brother, who does not want to be named, told The National.

“We don’t want to lose hope. But anything could have happened to her. We don’t want to think about the worst."

She went to the festival with four of her friends and only two are known to have managed to escape to safety.

“The girls told me armed men started spraying bullets and killed hundreds on the spot," the brother said. "Both of them have bullet wounds, shrapnel wounds all over their body, and are even terrified even to speak.

Israeli couple said to be abducted

Israeli couple, Avinatan Or, 30, and Noa Argamani, 26, were believed to have been abducted by Hamas militants near the border.

The couple’s friend, Dolev Kikos, told The National he had been in touch with them just hours before the attack.

“Avinatan came for a coffee at my place on Friday and he spoke about this trance music festival he was planning to attend with his girlfriend Noa,” he said.

Mr Or works in the IT sector and Ms Argamani is a student.

Mr Kikos said he was woken up on Saturday by the sound of rockets fired by Hamas into southern Israel which resulted in a massive Israeli aerial bombardment of Gaza.

He contacted his friend at 9am to check whether he was OK.

“Twenty minutes later he replied with a picture and said they were hiding from terrorists in a nearby spot. I asked him to send me a live location. I tried repeatedly to contact the police but received no response, despite making 15 calls," said Mr Kikos.

“Avinatan kept sending me messages with live updates of around 20 armed men hunting down Israelis and killing them one by one. He was terrified.

“I told him to hide as I was sure the [Israeli] army would be at the spot soon. But I was wrong.”

The last he heard from his friend was at 10.19am.

“It was the most terrifying moment, as I did not know what was happening to my friend," he said.

By 3pm, Mr Kikos said he started receiving videos on WhatsApp of Ms Argamani sitting in Gaza, crying and drinking water.

“Then another video surfaced of her being taken away by Hamas on a motorbike and Avinatan being taken hostage,” he said. "You could see their faces and how terrified and shocked they look."

Helpless and unable to reach them, Mr Kikos said he could not help but break down in tears.

“I hope my friends are alive and will be back soon. Israel is strong and our people are strong," he said.

"We need the entire world to support us against terrorists.”

Updated: October 11, 2023, 8:26 AM