‘They’re in the house’: Sister of kidnapped 12-year-old boy recounts last contact with missing relatives

Gaya Calderon was at home in Tel Aviv early Saturday when the unprecedented Hamas assault began with a barrage of rockets into southern Israel.

Raised in Kibbutz Nir Oz near the Gaza Strip, she lived with her family in the kibbutz until she moved to Tel Aviv just this year.

“I’ve lived there my whole life, we know these rockets. I called my parents, they told me that it was never like this, but I told them that it was going to be ok, and that I was going to go back to sleep,” she says in a briefing with reporters over Zoom.

Her parents and her siblings — 18-year-old brother Rotem, 16-year-old sister Sa’ar, and 12-year-old brother Erez — all live in the kibbutz, as do her grandmother, aunt, and cousin.

“A few minutes later, my friend called and says ‘Hey, do you know that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are in the kibbutz?”

She says she jumped out of bed and called her parents. They didn’t pick up but wrote back and said they couldn’t talk and needed to stay quiet.

A text from her 16-year-old sister Sa’ar read: “‘I am so scared, Gaya, I want to cry,’” she recounts. “I told her to stay calm and trust dad.”

A few moments later, Sa’ar texted: “Gaya, they are in the house. We are hiding outside, don’t message anymore.”

Then in the family WhatsApp group, Sa’ar texted: “Mom, I love you.”

“Then nothing,” Gaya says.

She texted her mom, who lives elsewhere on the kibbutz. “Gaya, I hear gunfire; I think this is the end.”

Gaya’s mother was in her safe room when terrorists tried to open the door. She says her mom, who survived the assault, held the door handle for dear life.

Her 18-year-old brother, who has his own place in the kibbutz, also survived. His home was destroyed and partly torched.

Gaya says that during this time, she was praying, crying and hoping for the best. Then a short clip came through.

“It was a video of my brother, Erez, a terrorist was grabbing him, holding him. I saw no blood on him, so I can only hope that he is ok.”

“My sister, my father, my grandmother and my cousin — we don’t know where they are. They were not found.”

“I sit at home and cry all day, I am helpless, I can’t go to Gaza and save them.”

Though there has been little contact with authorities, Gaya says she doesn’t blame anyone. “I trust my country. I want to get my family back.”

“Please help us.”