A Briton whose 78-year-old mother was kidnapped by Hamas urged journalists to ‘use the T word’ as the row over the BBC’s refusal to describe the group as ‘terrorists’ deepens.
Noam Sagi, whose mother was kidnapped from a retirement home in southern Israel, told media at a press conference with family members of British-Israeli kidnap victims ‘you can use the T word – because this is what it is’.
His comment comes after the BBC has defended its decision not to describe Hamas militants as ‘terrorists’ in its coverage of the deadly attacks in Israel, despite receiving a huge backlash from politicians and the Jewish community.
The broadcaster has justified its language use in the name of impartiality, adding its job is to explain ‘precisely what is happening on the ground so audiences can make their own judgement’.
Sagi’s remark came at the end of the conference, which heard from a British-Israeli woman whose brother was murdered by Hamas as her mother and another brother were kidnapped.
Ayelet Svatitzky, 46, said her ‘life has stopped’. ‘If I start thinking about that it will hurt too much and it will break me, and I don’t have the privilege of breaking because I have a mission and I need to be productive,’ she added.
Ofri Bibas Levi, whose brother Yarden Bibas was taken by Hamas with his wife Shiri and their two children, also revealed how her brother had text her saying ‘I love you’ before they went missing.
And teacher David Barr, who moved to kibbutz Alumim from Leeds in 1991, described living through Hamas’s attack on his area and losing loved ones.
Noam Sagi, (left on the panel) whose mother was kidnapped from a retirement home in southern Israel, told a press conference with family members of British-Israeli kidnap victims ‘and can you use the T word – because that is what it is’.
Sagi’s remark came at the end of the conference, which heard from family members of British-Israeli kidnap victims
Noam Sagi (L), 53, pictured with his mother, Ada Sagi (R)
‘I didn’t know what was better, being killed or being kidnapped by Hamas,’ Ayelet said
Ayelet Svatitzky told how she heard ‘male voices’ as she spoke to her family on the phone earlier this month and ‘immediately realised what was happening’.
Then she received two photographs showing her mother – in her dressing gown – and barefoot younger brother, sent with the caption ‘Hamas’.
That was the last she has seen or heard from the pair of them and to add to her trauma, she received the devastating news that her older brother’s body was found.
‘My life stopped on the 7th October. I try not to deal with my loss of my brother at the moment because I find it too painful,’ she told the press conference.
‘If I start thinking about that it will hurt too much and it will break me, and I don’t have the privilege of breaking because I have a mission and I need to be productive.’
Ayelet has not had any information on her family’s whereabouts.
Showing a picture of her mother and brother at the conference, she said: ‘She was supposed to be in London now for a holiday, for shows, a hotel, I had to cancel everything because she is still in Gaza.
‘They’re just simple people, living in a small community. It’s a quiet, simple, peaceful life that’s been shattered to pieces on October 7th.
‘Now my brother is dead. And my family is being held in Gaza.
‘This is a humanitarian crisis, this is a war crime, the hostages have to be released and returned. We demand the return of our loved ones home so we can start healing from this trauma’.
The 46-year-old mother-of-three, who lives about two hours from the Gaza border and an hour north of Telaviv, said that on October 7 she woke up to her husband speaking on the phone, before he told her ‘something bad is happening down south, call your mum now’.
As she grabbed her phone, she said she read in a group chat that there was a ground invasion by Hamas.
She says she frantically called her mother but heard men’s voices. ‘I immediately realised what was happening, I knew that they’d got to her.’
Ayelet Svatitzky showing photos of her kidnapped mother and brother at the press conference
Ayelet said she then called her brother who lives next to her mother but heard the same voices. ‘I knew they had got him too,’ she said.
She said she called a friend to try and send help but ‘no one could get there’.
‘Then I got two pictures sent to me from my mum’s phone showing my mother sitting in the living room, still in her nightwear. My brother sitting on the sofa. He was dressed but barefoot. Underneath the two pictures it said “Hamas”.’
She said Hamas then uploaded a photo to her 79-year-old mother’s Facebook story.
‘That was the last I heard of them,’ she told. ‘I later learned a neighbour saw them being walked out of the house and being taken – I only found that out a couple of days later.’
‘The first few hours I thought they were gone, dead, both my mum and my brother. I thought they were probably murdered.’
But then she said news of kidnappings started circulating so wondered whether the pictures had been ‘proof of life’.
‘I didn’t know what was better, being killed or being kidnapped by Hamas,’ she continued.
Hours later she got a phone call telling her that her mother, brother, and older brother were missing. She went to a police station and filed a formal missing persons report.
But she received a call that her older brother’s body had been found, at the age of 54.
He was shot dead behind his house. But he still hasn’t been officially identified.
Ayelet says her life is now spent worrying for her diabetic mother and brother, being held by Hamas.
‘My mother needs insulin shots, I don’t know if she’s getting them and how long she can survive without them.
‘I am chasing dental records… so I can identify my other brother so we can bury him and bring him to rest.
‘This has been my life for the last 18 days.’
A press conference with family members of British-Israeli kidnap victims
A woman whose family members were also taken by Hamas says she has also been ‘living in a nightmare’ since October 7.
Ofri Bibas Levi, whose brother Yarden Bibas and his wife Shiri were taken by Hamas with their two young sons spoke at the press conference and revealed her brother had text her saying ‘I love you’.
‘Ten minutes later he wrote “they’re coming inside” and that was the last text I got from him.’
A few hours later she says she received a photo of Shiri and the children being kidnapped.
Video of Shiri and her two redheaded sons, Ariel, four, and Kfir, nine-months-old, being taken by the terrorists from Kibbutz Nir Oz have shocked the world.
‘Seeing this video was the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever had to witness,’ Ofri said. ‘I could see how terrified Shiri was.’
Ofri said this footage, along with pictures of her brother bleeding from his head and surrounded by Hamas fighters, were the last proof of life they had seen of her family, 18 days ago.
‘Its been like living in a nightmare ever since.
Knowing the suffering her young nephews have faced, Ofri said: ‘I feel guilty for eating, sleeping, for playing with my children, covering them up at night.’
She added: ‘Just days before the attack Ariel was telling his mom he wanted to leave the Kibbutz and come live next to us to play with my daughter.’
Ofri Bibas Levi, whose brother Yarden Bibas, his wife Shiri and their two sons were taken by Hamas
Teacher David Barr, who moved to kibbutz Alumim from Leeds in 1991, described living through Hamas’s attack on his area and losing loved ones.
‘It was easier to bury our loved ones than to go through the anguish they’re going through,’ he said.
His sister-in-law was out for a run when Hamas terrorists shot her at point-blank range in the head and the back. It took the family four days to identify her body.
He said life had been turned upside down ‘by death, by hatred, by evil people’.
David’s children and grandchildren live in nearby villages and told him and his wife to stay inside their safe house during the October 7 attack.
He said there were ‘moments when you think your whole family is going to be wiped out, your whole life goes in front of you in seconds.’
He said his son, who stayed behind to help, told him Hamas ‘could not be of this world’.
Teacher David Barr, who moved to kibbutz Alumim from Leeds in 1991, described living through Hamas’s attack on his area and losing loved ones
MailOnline has contacted the BBC for comment.