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Families watch Hamas videos in horror in hopes of finding hostages

The aunt of a missing American told Scripps News she reviews videos by Hamas in hopes of finding her niece.
Families watch Hamas videos in horror in hopes of finding hostages
Posted at 7:46 AM, Oct 17, 2023

The Israeli government said in recent days the official number of hostages taken by Hamas has risen to 190. Among the many cruelties inflicted in this war is that families of hostages must relive the horror again and again by watching Hamas videos for a sign of their missing loved ones.

Saray Cohen is among those looking for family. Her teenage niece Natalie Raanan was taken over a week ago by Hamas militants. Raanan's last communication came via text from a safe room in a kibbutz called Nahal Oz. Raanan is from Illinois and was in Israel to visit family with her mother. 

"She said that they're hearing that shooting out of their apartment and that they're OK and they love us," Cohen said. "And that was the last message I heard from them." 

Even after the text messages stopped, Cohen held out hope that Raanan and her mother were safe. 

"At first I thought maybe she ran out of battery or maybe there was a break and they decided to rest a little bit. But after two hours, I felt something was wrong," Cohen said. 

SEE MORE: Newly released video shows a woman taken hostage by Hamas

Cohen's hope disappeared when she reached the apartment Raanan was staying in. 

"The doors were thrown out, the windows were broken, the personal belongings were still on the floor, but they were nowhere to be found," Cohen said. 

Now Cohen must relive the horror, looking for proof of life that Raanan and her mom are still alive. 

"Horrible videos of things being done to people captured there," Cohen said. "We went through all of them in order to see if we can recognize either one of them. But we did not find anything yet."

Like Cohen, Abbey Onn is also looking for family held hostage. She is looking for five members of her family who were taken captive. 

"They understood Hamas was there," Onn said. "They could hear the Arabic, they could hear gunfire, they could hear people in houses next to them being killed and their text messages."

Like Cohen, Onn has been reviewing Hamas videos in hopes of finding her loved ones. She happened to find one video that included her 12-year-old cousin. 

She also has a missing 13-year-old cousin who has autism. 

"She doesn't understand what was happening," Onn said. "She is sensitive to light and noise and touch. So I imagine that this is a nightmare."

Both women's families were on a Zoom call with President Joe Biden with relatives of the hostages, and both of them believe their loved ones are alive.

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