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I realized that if we stayed there, we would die

  • Yasmin P.'s story

Three terrorists aimed Kalashnikovs at our heads and told us to get out

My partner Tal and I were at the Nova party in Re’im, and we ran away when the rockets started. Even before we knew that there was an infiltration of terrorists in Israel, in [Kibbutz] Be’eri, or at the party. There were terrorists in the migunit [small roadside concrete shelter], and we started driving away from the terrorists on the roads.

Then the gate at Kibbutz Be’eri opened and we decided to go in because we didn't know that the Kibbutz had been infiltrated, and we knew that it was a really good kibbutz, that it was well protected.

We decided to go in to protect ourselves there, and because the situation had worsened - suddenly they said that there had been an infiltration - and because of the rockets, we decided to knock on someone’s door. We just drove to a parking lot, which turned out to be near the dining hall, and stopped the car. Rockets were flying through the air and there was this tense feeling. They said that there were terrorists but from our perspective, we’re talking about 6:30 in the morning, so even if they say “terrorist infiltration” we’re thinking four or five terrorists, something that can be controlled, not 300 terrorists.

The way we thought before October 7.

Yasmin P. and her partner Tal

We knocked on two or three houses, which apparently turned out to be the houses of some people who would be with us later, but they didn't answer. People were still sleeping. It was 6:50 in the morning when Hadas and Adi Dagan opened the door for us, and you could see that they had just woken up. We went into the house and I remember the time because we checked. I asked them, “What time is it?” Because I wanted to understand what time we had arrived at their place.

In the beginning, we didn’t even go into their safe room. They are the type of people who settled this part of the country, and they’ve lived there for years. I think they’re the founders of Kibbutz Be’eri or something. They weren’t worried about a few rockets. I'm from the north, so I'm [used to] katyushot [a type of rocket], so I wasn’t worried about a few rockets, either.

We are a couple in our 40's and they were a couple in their 70's.

I immediately recognized that we were in a neighborhood of relatively old people because there were electric mobility scooters beside every house.

We were sitting there at the beginning, still drinking coffee in the living room, starting to digest, and we were telling them that we had been at a party, and there had been rockets in the air, and we had gone into a migunit near Be’eri, and two terrorists had arrived and started shooting there. We were telling them that we had escaped right away, first from rockets, and then from the migunit because we saw two terrorists, and as a very reasonable person who understands things, I still hadn’t make the shift that if there are two terrorists in a migunit, then that means there are 3,000 terrorists now.

Then, at 7:30 in the morning, we were hearing rockets all the time and we started to get WhatsApp messages from inside the kibbutz. Hadas, the woman of the house, told us:

“I think it's time to go into the safe room. People are sending a lot of WhatsApp [messages] that there is also an infiltration.” We were still under the impression that this infiltration would be something like 4 or 5 terrorists, and that the army would soon get involved and everything will be fine. We were just waiting for everything to be fine.

We went into the safe room, and like all of Israel, started to watch what was happening on television, because there was a television in the safe room. We also began to see, through our WhatsApp groups from the trance community, messages like - “He disappeared,” “He was shot,” “Does anyone have any news about him?” I started to understand that something abnormal was happening, and we started to receive a lot of messages, and I said to Tal, “What’s going on? There are a lot of people missing from the party. What happened? Where have they gone? I don't understand." 

“We began to see messages like, “He disappeared,” “He was shot,” “Does anyone have any news about him?” 

At the same time, the couple from Kibbutz Be’eri, Hadas and Adi, start receiving WhatsApp messages in their groups: “They broke into my house! Come save me, call someone, I hear shouting in Arabic in my house,” and five minutes later, the same woman who had been in contact with them doesn't write anymore.

Over time I noticed that Hadas and Adi, who at first had been calm, start to feel that something terrible is happening. And I knew that they are from the area, and they are understanding adults after all, and they started sensing that something is not right.

We sat there from 7:30 in the morning until 14:00 in the afternoon, four people in a safe room, sitting in front of the television, in front of phones, and we received messages and understood what was happening, just from the messages and the television.

We began to understand that something serious was happening in Israel, but we still didn’t understand the magnitude of it. 

“And little by little…we understood from Hadas that the terrorists were starting to approach our area…”

And little by little, according to the people reporting on WhatsApp in the groups in Be’eri, we understood from Hadas that the terrorists were starting to approach our area, because we know retrospectively that they started at the other end of the kibbutz. At about 13:50, Hadas said to us, “I want you to be calm. The terrorists are in the neighbor's house. They are probably coming here.” We started preparing for the worst.

Suddenly, at 14:00, the house shattered. We heard everything being broken, shooting, shouting in Arabic. We heard many people in the house; it wasn’t one, two, three people, it was many. Not a minute passed and they arrived at the safe room and because the safe room was not locked, only closed, Adi held the handle of the door for an entire hour.

He managed to hold it tight and not let them break it in. They shot at the door, they shouted at us, they tried to convince us to open it. In retrospect we understand that they brought Yanai [Hezroni], Liel's brother, to the door. We heard a young boy say, “Hadas and Adi. I'm your neighbor. Come, they just want to take pictures of us, they won't do anything to us.”

At this point, Tal and I were hiding in a closet, Adi held the door, and Hadas was sitting on the sofa very scared. We understood that they were trying to get us out in every possible way, both mentally and physically. And it didn’t work for them, for a whole hour. We heard many terrorists; in retrospect we were told there were 10 terrorists inside the house.

And then after fifty minutes, they decided to throw a grenade into the window of the safe room and succeeded in breaking the window, and at 15:00, they subdued Hadas and Adi.

I heard it through the closet. They told her to get out and she begged for her life, and we heard that they were being taken; we heard everything, we heard them from inside the room. Less than a minute passed and they opened the closet, and Tal and I were there. Three terrorists aimed Kalashnikovs at our heads and told us to get out, and we went out.

Because I was inside the closet for a long time and it was dark, I was terribly blinded, and as an Israeli, I must say when I came out I was shocked. There were ten terrorists in this small room, who led us, me and Tal, along with Hadas and Adi, who had come out some 2 or 3 minutes before us, to the shared balcony of these four adjacent houses. We went into the yard, and I saw that there were about 40 terrorists there. I was shocked. I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

“We went into the yard, and I saw that there were about 40 terrorists there. I was shocked. I couldn't believe what I was seeing.”

They had taken over this quartet of houses, a row of houses, and there was a common yard, and in this common yard of four adjacent houses, there were about 40 terrorists, all with Kalashnikovs, all with ammunition on them, with vests full of ammunition, soldiers for all intents and purposes. We weren’t from the kibbutz so we didn’t know the other people.

The others all knew each other - or most of them did, because there were also other guests there - but in total we were 15 hostages.

At first they put us in one woman’s house, Pessi Cohen. She had a very long built-in dining area on the balcony with some 12 or 14 seats, and they seated us there. Tal and I joined the other hostages who were already sitting in the dining area. That's when I started to understand who was sitting with us. I can say in retrospect that I recognized Liel and Yanai. At the time, I didn't know that they were twins; I thought they were siblings, and saw right away that they were related. I saw that they were sitting with someone older who I thought was the grandmother [she was actually the children’s great aunt, who had raised them], but because we didn't identify ourselves, we didn't make introductions. 

I understood that she was not the biological grandmother but the one who took care of them, Ayala. Of course, Hadas and Adi were there, Pessi Cohen, the owner of the house was there; she had been hosting her sister, her husband, and their son. The husband had already been killed and the son had been shot in the thigh. There was also Ze’ev and Zehavah, a couple, and a single woman, Hava. In short, everyone who had been in those houses had been taken out of their safe rooms, and we were 15 people in the dining area.

At first, they just kept watch over us. There were about 40 terrorists inside the entire housing complex. About ten terrorists were guarding us. They sat with us and I became their liaison. About 20 minutes after I was kidnapped, they turned to me, asked me if I have a phone, and if I know people from the army and the police. I told them that I do, and they told me, “Let's call one of them.” I didn't have my phone with me and they even agreed to go back to the previous house and look for my phone. Twenty minutes after I was kidnapped, they took one of the phones from the kibbutz people there, and dialed 100 [emergency number for the police], and together with them, I called the police. 

Yasmin P. and her partner Tal kiss

They thought that the army had already surrounded all of Be’eri and the road to Gaza. They wanted to leave alive, with us. They wanted the police to allow them an escape route under the protection of the police. They could have gone back and forth with us ten times, they just didn't know it. They thought the police were already everywhere, and for almost two hours, I spoke with one of the [terrorist] commanders who was in charge of the hostages. One group of terrorists guarded us, and other groups guarded the yard. It was as if they were protecting the whole territory.

For an hour, I had seven conversations with the police; all of these conversations are recorded. Together with the terrorists; this means that every time I started the conversation by saying "Hello, I'm Yasmin from Kibbutz Be’eri, we’ve been kidnapped in the house of Pessi Cohen. Please save us.” The police didn't understand what I was saying. It took between an hour and a half to two hours, during which time we spoke six times with the police. I was relatively calm during the conversations and the terrorists kept making gestures to me to make myself cry, to be more frantic, they wanted the police to hear that I was hysterical. And because it wasn’t reflected in my voice, in one of the conversations, I remember they brought in Liel. She came to me, and she took the phone from me and she shouted something a bit more frantically, “Please come help me!” Her voice was more frantic, and so was the way she said things. Then they sat her back down.

At least three times, they took me to the road to identify if there were police hiding in the bushes. They also thought that there were snipers in the bushes. We went up the road, I went with three terrorists, all pointing Kalashnikovs in every direction, and I said: “Hello, is there anyone here? Is there anyone here? Police? I'm a civilian,” and no one answered.

Two hours like that, and in the end the police showed up.

Each of us responded differently to the situation. We had already been with them for two hours, and because everyone, except for me and Tal, were all 65-70 year olds, plus a couple of children, they were very calm, so they allowed us to sit outside in the yard, because it was very hot inside the house. There was kind of a low wall, and we sat there to get some air. They didn't want us stressed, they wanted us to be calm. If someone became stressed, we gave them a glass of water, and we sat outside part of the time as well.

At 17:00, the police arrived, and they stood in front of the road, and the terrorists all pointed weapons in the direction of the police. The whole group of us was together with them, spread out. It's hard for me to remember why I was inside the house when all this happened, and when the police arrived, it all happened in a matter of two to three minutes. We didn't prepare for such an event, we didn't know what was going to happen. Suddenly the police took up positions and we were stressed and then within two or three minutes a shootout began. It began with one or two bullets flying in the air between the two sides, and within a minute it turned into hundreds of bullets flying in the air. Probably because I had had a conversation with the terrorists, I was with them in the living room. Most of the hostages were outside. At least I had windows that protected me from the shooting, I was lucky in that regard. When the shooting broke out, at around 17:00, it caught me in the living room. I lay on the floor along with everyone else, everyone lay on the floor and they told us to, shouting at us and showing us.

“It began with one or two bullets flying in the air between the two sides, and within a minute it turned into hundreds of bullets flying in the air.” 

I was in the living room with another hostage named Hana, she was the sister of Pessi Cohen, and had come with her husband, who had already been killed, and she told me this during the exchange of gunfire. And there was another woman, I think it was Zehava, the three of us were in the living room, and there were shots everywhere.

At this stage, I didn’t see Liel, Yanai and the grandmother [sic], and I don't know where they were inside the house, but I knew they were inside the house. Liel kept screaming, out of fear and hysteria, and I only heard her, I didn’t know where she was, because I couldn’t raise my head. If you raised your head, you got shot in the head, you really couldn’t look. But I remember that every time there was a very heavy barrage - and once they threw something like a mortar, an RPG, something that wasn't a gun - and there was a really big boom, she screamed out in fear, like any little girl would scream. 

She was really scared and she didn't stop screaming. If we were adults and we also let out a scream here and there, it was in a more restrained way compared to her because she was just really very scared. Today, I know that she was the same age as my oldest daughters, and it shocks me to think about what she went through.