'It scares the hell out of me': families of Gaza hostages fear ground war

Israel wants to ensure the release of more than 200 people abducted into Gaza on October 7

Maya and Itay Regev with their mother and brother. AP
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Haviva Izikson is calm as she describes her sister’s last moments, screaming down the phone that Hamas had entered her clinic and were about to kill her.

Amit Man was a 22-year-old instructor paramedic – the youngest in Israel, her sister says.

Haviva thinks Amit would be alive if she had not left her shelter to go and help people in Kibbutz Be’eri on October 7. Her sister saved at least one life that day and cared for many more.

But Haviva’s voice cracks when she talks about Amit’s love for singing.

“Every free moment from the age of three she would be singing – we even have videos of her singing in the ambulance,” her sister says.

"She never stopped singing": The Israeli paramedic killed by Hamas

"She never stopped singing": The Israeli paramedic killed by Hamas

“When she was 18, before she started the paramedic course, she had a dilemma about whether she should instead study singing and acting,” Haviva says.

“Despite eventually choosing to be a medic, Amit never stopped singing whenever she could. Just like she did when she was three.”

On Saturday evening Haviva was momentarily distracted from her intense grief when she heard that Judith Raanan and her teenage daughter Natalie were released from captivity in Gaza.

She, like all Israelis, was happy at the best news the country has heard in two weeks. They want to get the rest of them back, whether they entered Gaza dead or alive.

“There are still more than 200 people in Gaza, 30 children among them – a whole kindergarten,”Haviva says. “We cannot stop or rest until every last one of them is released.”

Whether they will be released or not is uncertain. But with a much-anticipated Israeli ground invasion of Gaza looming and a reluctance to negotiate with Hamas, the government seems to be favouring a military response.

“I’m not a military man, but I know the army is doing the best to release our children,” says the father of Maya and Itai Regev, who were taken hostage at the Nova music festival. “I really trust them – we have the best army.”

“First give us our children, then do whatever you want to do – first the children,” their mother interjects.

“The whole world must support us in bringing my children back. We want the whole world to listen to Maya’s scream: ‘Daddy they’re shooting me’.”

But despite the father's apparent trust in the military, he is still worried about Israel’s intense bombing campaign on Gaza.

“I’m very afraid of [the bombing] because I don’t know where my children are – it scares the hell out of me,” he says.

“But I know that the first thing the army wants to do is to take care of the hostages.”

Haviva, who, unlike the Regevs, has no chance of a reunion with Amit, fears for her four sons who are yet to enrol in their military service, as Israel enters what could well become the bloodiest war it has had to fight.

“I’m afraid we have no other choice,” she says. “We realised on October 7 that this is a war for our existence.”

“Jewish people have no other place to live in the world – it’s us or them,” she adds.

“Hamas showed us that there’s no chance for peace.”

Updated: October 21, 2023, 3:13 PM