An Israeli-American family whose kibbutz was attacked by Hamas on Saturday texted their relatives to say they were doing well amid the attack – before sending harrowing messages detailing their final moments.
‘They’re here. They burn us. We are suffocating,” Johnny Siman Tov, 36, wrote.
He and his wife Tamar Kedem-Simian Tov, 35; their three children, aged between two and five, and Johnny’s mother Carol Simian Tov, 70, were all murdered on Saturday.
Johnny, his children Omer, age two, and five-year-old twins Arbel and Shachar were all U.S. citizens, as was his mother. His wife’s nationality was unclear.
The six lived in Kibbutz Nir Oz, near the Gaza Strip, a community of 400 people. Eighty people were killed in Saturday’s attack.
As the Hamas terrorists advanced, Tamar Kedem-Simian Tov sent text messages to friends in Australia saying they were safe.
Tamar Kedem-Siman Tov with her husband Johnny and their five-year-old daughters Shachar and Arbel, and their two-year-old son Omer. They were murdered on Saturday
Carol Simian Tov, 70, was killed on Saturday in Kibbutz Nir Oz, where she lived with her family. Her son, his wife and their three children were also killed
She wrote to her friends Yishai and Mor Lacob from Sydney, from the concrete bunker of her home, at about 2.45pm on Saturday, saying: ‘Hello guys, we have ended up in the shelter of our house, we are doing well.’
An hour later the text messages to Australia stopped.
Johnny Simian Tov texted his sister, Ranae Butler, who lives in Israel, saying, “They’re here. They burn us. We’re suffocating.’
Carol Simian Tov had fled to her own home with her dog Charlie when Hamas advanced.
She was shot dead in her own safe room.
Two of Carol’s daughters and two of her sons survived the attack on the kibbutz, plus their father, Larry Butler.
One of the sons, Shachar Butler, head of the kibbutz’s security, was shot in the attack but is recovering.
“They barely put on their boots and pants and ran and fought bravely,” Ranae Butler said.
“We cry and hug,” she added.
“They’ve all been through hell.”
In Australia, the Lacobs panicked and tried to contact everyone they knew in the village to find out what was going on, before receiving news that the Tov’s safe room had been broken into.
“Our hearts are broken,” Yishai wrote on Facebook on Monday.
‘An entire family was murdered by vicious murderers who shot the children and parents simply because they were Jewish.
‘And this is just one story, out of many. It’s unbearable.’
Nir Oz is a farming village with about 400 inhabitants and is located three kilometers from Gaza.
Despite the proximity to a conflict zone, Mor told the Sydney Morning Herald it was considered a peaceful place to live and raise a family.
“They didn’t think something like this could happen,” she said.
Tamar was a social activist who campaigned to become head of the regional council of Eshkol, in Israel’s Southern District.
“She was such a special woman,” Mor told the publication.
‘She always cared about the poor people, always making sure that those less fortunate had the same opportunities.
The family hid in a concrete bunker near their home in southern Israel before it was breached. Tamar (left) uploaded this photo four days ago
Friends flooded Facebook with tributes to the young family (photo)
“She was a living example of these values.”
Just four days ago, the mother of three posted photos of her council campaign on Facebook.
“Half a week summary post, because even Facebook can’t keep up with me this holiday,” she wrote in a post translated from Hebrew to English on Thursday.
‘The neighborhood speaks for itself, we want an attentive municipal leader who has an eye for the residents – from young to old.’
She wanted to improve health, employment, safety and security across the region.
Her messages were flooded with messages of support on Thursday.
On Tuesday they were flooded with tributes.
“My heart is torn,” one person wrote.
Another said: ‘What a tragedy… I can’t believe it’s four days later.’
Pictured: Tamar and her husband Johnny, who were living in southern Israel when their village was attacked
The attacks began around 6:30 a.m. Israel time on Saturday, when thousands of Hamas rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel and as far as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
At the same time, hundreds of Palestinian militants paraglided over the heavily guarded border, while others stormed towns by boat or after blowing holes in the Gaza-Israel border.
They then went door to door shooting innocent civilians and soldiers before kidnapping more than a hundred Israelis and taking them to Gaza.