▶ Watch Video: American in Israel whose family was taken hostage by Hamas speaks out

An American woman who had five family members were taken hostage during Hamas’ attacks on Israel told CBS News about the experience and the moment she and her family realized their loved ones were missing. 

Abbey Onn said that she was in her Israel home, north of Tel Aviv, when she and other family members got messages from relatives in southern Israel. Her five family members — Ofer Kalderon, 50, Sahar Kalderon, 16, Noya Dan, 13, Erez Kalderon, 12 and Carmela Dan, 80 — lived in Nir Oz, a kibbutz in the area. It was one of the towns that was attacked by rocket fire, land incursions and more on Saturday in a series of violent attacks that have killed hundreds of people. 

“We last heard from them on WhatsApp in the middle of the day on Saturday,” Onn said. “We got messages throughout the morning that Hamas was in the kibbutz, that there was gunfire, and that they were in their homes, that they had overturned everything in their house and that they were afraid for their lives.” 

Onn said that she believes the Israeli army eventually told them to stop using their phones, so the family members stopped communicating. But when other family in the area “came out of the bomb shelters, after Hamas had burned and murdered half the kibbutz, they understood that these five members were not there,” Onn said.

Abbey Onn’s family members.

Abbey Onn

It wasn’t until the next day that they understood what had happened to the missing relatives. 

“It was on Sunday that we saw on Instagram, on social media, the video of Erez in the hands of Hamas, which made us understand that they had been taken captive and that they’re being held hostage in Gaza,” Onn said. 

Onn said that her family members have been in the Nir Oz area for generations. Carmela Dan’s father moved to Israel a century ago and built the kibbutz “literally from the ground up,” Onn said. Dan moved to the kibbutz “60 years ago,” Onn said. 

“Since then, she’s become the matriarch of a major clan of people,” Onn said. “They are family oriented, they love the land, they’re deeply, deeply connected to Nir Oz and to this area and to peace. Carmela was the mother and grandmother not only to the people in these pictures, but to a much larger community. They loved the simple things, they loved celebrating things, they loved where they lived.” 

Onn said that beyond her family’s loss, the kibbutz has been destroyed. 

State Department spokesman on Israel-Hamas war, possible American hostages, humanitarian crisis


“Nir Oz is no longer,” she said. “It is an unthinkable atrocity that from one day to the next, that could happen.” 

It’s been confirmed that hostages have been taken, with the Israeli government saying that more than 100 people have been taken captive. That number includes women, children and the elderly. Hamas previously vowed that the group would kill one of its Israeli hostages in retaliation for any Israeli strikes against civilian infrastructure carried out without warning. American citizens are believed to be among those taken. 

Since the violence broke out, Israel has tightened the blockade around the Gaza Strip, where 2 million Palestinian people live. CBS News’ Holly Williams reported earlier Tuesday that Israel is planning a ground invasion of the area, which has been hammered by airstrikes since Saturday’s violence. 

Onn said that she is hoping for a diplomatic solution. 

“This is not the first time this country has been up against this kind of challenge,” said Onn. “And they have an army and a government that knows how to solve this. And they just need to do that. … These are civilians who are being terrorized and we want them brought home.”