On a transparent December morning, two Palestinian brothers stood on a hill in southern Israel, overlooking Gaza, and watched the smoke rising from Israeli airstrikes.
It was a conflicted second for the boys, Abd Al-Mughani Abu Amar, 37, and Mahmood Abu Amar, 24. They stay in East Jerusalem and have been pondering of their family in Hamas-controlled Gaza, whom they by no means heard of within the Gaza Strip. had heard. to melt.
However the brothers had been drawn to the Gaza border for a special purpose: Their youngest brother, Soheib Abu Amar, a bus driver, was captured by Hamas on October 7 after driving Israeli partygoers to a music competition the night time earlier than.
His brothers had come to retrace Mr. Abu Amar’s final identified steps.
About two million Arabs stay in Israel, roughly a fifth of the nation’s greater than 9 million inhabitants. A number of have been among the many 1,200 individuals killed by Hamas on October 7.
For Mr. Abu Amar’s brothers, the times since his kidnapping have been stuffed with staggering feelings. As Palestinians, our hearts are with the residents of Gaza who’re affected by the brutal Israeli bombardment. However the homicide of Mr. Abu Amar has additionally made them share in Israel’s trauma.
“The lack of so many civilians – right here and there – is unbearably painful,” stated Mahmood Abu Amar.
Hours earlier than the assault, Mr. Abu Amar was sleeping in his new minivan and deliberate to take his passengers dwelling within the morning, his household stated.
As a substitute, he grew to become concerned within the Hamas assault.
After the assault started, he despatched photographs and movies to his household and knowledgeable them of his whereabouts. He referred to as Mahmood to debate what to do.
“I informed him to go away, however he did not need to be with out his passengers,” Mahmood Abu Amar stated.
“By the point I satisfied him to flee, a police officer ordered him to remain there till the barrage handed,” stated Mahmood Abu Amar.
As rockets flew overhead, hundreds of Hamas terrorists started a lethal assault by Israeli border communities. The rave was the positioning of their deadliest bloodbath. About 360 individuals have been massacred, and lots of extra have been kidnapped.
Mr Abu Amar tried to scare partygoers away from the carnage, in keeping with dashcam footage recovered by police from his minibus. The pictures have been later given to his household.
“There are terrorists right here,” he informed his passengers.
“What? Terrorists, right here?” a passenger replied.
Video filmed by a Hamas fighter reveals Mr Abu Amar being led by the rave website by an attacker in fight fatigues.
One other attacker approached Mr Abu Amar, the video confirmed. “Are you Arab?” he screamed. Mr. Abu Amar tells the attacker that he’s a bus driver from Jerusalem.
At 9:32 am, Mr. Abu Amar’s brother-in-law acquired a name from Mr. Abu Amar’s cellphone.
It was a Hamas attacker who had captured Mr. Abu Amar.
“I informed him, ‘Depart him,’” stated the brother-in-law, who spoke on situation of anonymity to guard his household from reprisals. “’He’s my brother. Let him go to his home; his mom is ready for him. He comes from Jerusalem, not from there,’” that means Israel.
The Hamas terrorist replied: “I’m not leaving him, I’m conserving him with me.”
Hoping to save lots of his brother, Mahmood Abu Amar rushed south.
At 11 a.m., he was lower than 20 minutes from the place his brother was being held, however troopers closed off the world, he stated. He was ready at a gasoline station, however observed suspicious seems to be and drove again to Jerusalem.
At 3 p.m., Abd Al-Mughani Abu Amar acquired a name from an unknown quantity.
It was Mr. Abu Amar.
Utilizing the cellphone of a fellow hostage, Abd Al-Mughani Abu Amar stated his brother defined that he was being held with others.
“He spoke of a negotiation with the Israeli forces that he hoped would lead to his launch,” he stated. “He requested me to not say something to our dad and mom so they would not fear.”
It was the final time the household spoke to Mr Abu Amar.
Abd Al-Mughani Abu Amar needs to know why Hamas attacked his brother. “In the event that they knew he was Arab,” he stated, “why did not they let him go?”
To report his brother lacking, Abd Al-Mughani Abu Amar went to a police station in Jerusalem, which is usually a fraught expertise for Palestinians in Israel. The primary officer he met — an Arab citizen of Israel — reacted aggressively, he stated. “Go to Hamas for assist,” he recalled the officer saying. A Jewish policewoman defused the state of affairs and helped him.
Just a few days later, police took DNA samples from the brothers’ dad and mom. On October 18, the household acquired the information they feared: Mr. Abu Amar was lifeless.
However they nonetheless do not understand how, when or the place he died.
A reporter for The New York Instances found that the cellphone Mr. Abu Amar had used on October 7 belonged to a 68-year-old lady from Be’eri, an Israeli village two miles from the competition website.
That revelation initially didn’t make sense to Mr. Abu Amar’s household. How did he find yourself with a Be’eri native?
A tv interview with a competition survivor provided a clue. The survivor, Yasmin Porat, stated she was taken to a home in Be’eri by Hamas terrorists together with 13 different hostages. She stated a Palestinian from Jerusalem had helped translate a dialog between the hostages and the terrorists.
She had assumed he was a terrorist.
When a Instances reporter confirmed Mr. Abu Amar’s picture to Ms. Porat, she realized the reality. Mr. Abu Amar had been the translator.
His destiny grew to become clearer: he had been kidnapped to Be’eri and held along with a bunch of captured residents, whereas terrorists massacred individuals in different elements of the village.
On that December morning, the brothers visited the placement the place Mr. Abu Amar had photographed the minivan on October 7.
They went to Be’eri to see the home the place he was being held hostage. Mahmood Abu Amar examined the charred partitions.
Not lengthy after Mr. Abu Amar spoke to his household for the final time, Israeli safety forces waged an intense battle with Hamas terrorists at dwelling, in keeping with interviews and video on the bottom. All hostages, besides Ms. Porat and one other lady, have been killed within the gun battle.
Mahmood Abu Amar stated he’s “indignant with each side.”
“Individuals ask me who killed him,” he stated, “however I do not understand how he died. I made a decision to return right here to search out out, hoping that understanding extra about his final moments will ease the ache.
Eran Betito, a Be’eri resident who took the brothers to the home, informed them his coronary heart went out to them. He stated he additionally misplaced members of the family and buddies on October 7.
Households of the hostages, who need a direct investigation, have written to officers in Be’eri, asking them to not demolish the home earlier than the army and police examine.
“We would like peace,” Mr Betito stated. “We’re being held hostage by warmongering extremists.”
Abd Al-Mughani Abu Amar nodded and stated that he too shares the ache of the kibbutz.
“We work with Israelis, now we have Israeli buddies who’re like household to us, we all know we get alongside,” stated Abd Al-Mughani Abu Amar.
“This warfare will finish in the future when two leaders comply with shake palms,” he added. “However our disappointment, our ache, won’t ever heal.”