Rotem Newman spent Friday night into Saturday dancing outdoors, like hundreds (or thousands, the number is uncertain) of other young people at an electronic music festival held south of Tel Aviv, in Israel. At dawn, you would realize that something wasn’t right. The last message the family of the young Portuguese woman knew about was sent to a friend. It was a matter of sharing a location – I was in an air raid shelter – and I told this friend to go there. There he will be safe.
“Saturday morning, everyone in Israel heard sirens, and then sirens Missiles. “At first, we thought this was the first of a few more days of fighting, something we were somewhat used to,” says Tomer Neumann, Rotem’s cousin, in an interview with PÚBLICO. At the shelter, we’re starting to see more news on TV and on social media. We didn’t really know what was going on, but we knew there were a large number of terrorists [membros do Hamas] “They entered Israel and we learned that they first attacked a music festival a few kilometers from Gaza.”
They put the pieces together: Rotem was present at this party. Since then, with the 25-year-old providing no news, the family has tried to find out as much as possible about what happened. There were many stories, videos and reports from acquaintances, allowing Tomer to imagine the most likely scenario.
“She did not meet the terrorists at the festival site, but fled with several friends to the north, not knowing that they would encounter more armed men,” describes Tomer, 25, who also holds a Portuguese passport. “They encountered terrorists, changed direction, and realized they were in an ambush. They then hid in an above-ground shelter, designed to protect people from air attacks, but not others.”
There, at 7 a.m., Rotem told another friend, Ben, to go to the group at the shelter, where they would be safe. Ben probably stayed longer at the festival site, telling him that he heard gunshots and that he would be going to the shelter soon. An hour later, Rotem asked how things were there. Rotem wouldn’t have been able to fight back, and Ben wouldn’t have gone to the shelter.
“I don’t know it from my cousin, but from a series of people who were in the same situation, who escaped and talked to us,” explains Tomer. “I know that when they arrived at this shelter they found a lot of bodies.”
He says the family maintains hope that Rotem will be okay, even if he is being held hostage by Hamas, but “it becomes more difficult as the hours pass.”
The behavioral sciences student who lives in Tel Aviv will not be the only Portuguese at the festival. Doreen Atias, 22, is also missing. Both will have Sephardic ancestry and Portuguese passports.
According to the center’s correspondent in Israel, Henrique Simmerman, Doreen spoke to his mother for the last time on Friday evening, and told her that the next day he would camp in an area adjacent to the fence that separates the Gaza Strip from the territory of the Gaza Strip. The State of Israel to participate in the music festival.
Hours later, Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel, choosing the crowd dancing near Gaza as its first target. At least 260 people were killed in the fence alone. The number of kidnapped people was not known.
Contacted by PÚBLICO on Monday, the Portuguese Foreign Ministry said it had not received “any contact from the Israeli authorities” reporting the disappearance of a young Sephardic man with Portuguese citizenship in Israel.
News updated at 9:55 p.m.: Headline changed
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