Israel-Hamas War

Families pray for safety of missing relatives, mourn loss of loved ones in Israel, Gaza amid war with Hamas

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Chicago-area residents with family in Israel and Gaza are praying for the safety of their relatives amid a war with Hamas, breaking out this weekend when thousands of militants launched terrorist attacks in Israeli cities near the Gaza Strip.

A prayer gathering was held Tuesday night at Chicago Sinai Congregation in the Loop, as families fear loved ones in Israel are among the hostages held captive by Hamas militants.

Rabbi Michael Weinberg's daughter, Sarah, lives in Tel Aviv, and is staying with friends who have a safe room inside their apartment. Weinberg said Sarah was able to get a flight back to the U.S. later this week.

At least 14 Americans have been killed in the Israel-Hamas war, according to President Joe Biden, and others are being held by the militant group, designated as a terrorist organization by multiple countries including the United States.

An Evanston mother and daughter are believed to be among the hostages.

"It's one thing to hear about the news, what’s happening collectively, but to know an individual makes it so personal," said Ahuvah Coates.

Coates is a close friend of Yehudit Bat Tamar, also known as Judith Raanan. The two are part of a religious women's support group. They had been communicating just days before Raanan's disappearance.

"I love Israel. I love the south. I’m in the kibbutz close to my mom," Judith said in a voice note to Coates. "Nothing like Israel my love, just nothing."

According to Coates, Judith was in a small town in southern Israel with her daughter, Natalie. The two were visiting Judith's aging mother before their presumed capture. The trip had been long been planned to celebrate her 50th birthday, along with Natalie's recent graduation from Deerfield High School.

"This was supposed to be something healing and filled with good energy and family connecting," said Coates.

Judith hasn't been active on the messaging app, WhatsApp, since Friday morning.

"I kept calling as if she’d answer the phone. Of course she didn’t answer her phone," said Coates.

Judith and Natalie are feared to have been captured by Hamas. Judith's synagogue in Evanston shared the news on Facebook.

In a post writing, "Please pray and do an extra mitzvah for all the wounded and captured, and for our dear Chabad of Evanston congregant Yehudit Bat Tamar and her daughter Natalie bat Yehudit, who apparently have been abducted from Nachal Oz, Israel."

The conflict has also led to destruction and loss of life in Gaza, affecting those in the Chicago area with family in the region.

Chicago police officer Mohammed Darabaih and his brother-in-law are mourning the loss of 10 family members in Gaza.

The home of one of Darabaih's cousins in Gaza was bombed, killing most of their family.

"Her and her family, husband, father-in-law, two brothers-in-law and kids. The home was bombed, they all passed away," Darabaih told NBC Chicago.

The oldest daughter is just 6 years old, with family hoping to track down any loved ones who may have survived.

A 7-year-old boy, Mustafa, is in a coma with brain damage. Among the family's survivors are 2-year-old twins who are now orphans.

"They're growing to grow up without both their parents, immediate parents and grandparents. They lost them all," Darabaih said.

Darabaih added that he prays for peace and a ceasefire in the region.

According to the Associated Press, the war has claimed over 1,900 lives in the four days of fighting, a death toll that is expected to grow.

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