Amid the murderous incursion into southern Israel by Hamas terrorists, it is believed that the radical Islamist militants kidnapped several dozen Israeli civilians and soldiers, along with a number of foreign citizens, and took them back to Gaza as hostages.
Suspected to be among those captives is a Canadian peace activist named Vivian Silver, 74, who is thought to have been snatched by Hamas gunmen while attempting to hide in her home in the small town of Kibbutz Be'eri, according to NBC News.
Silver had been exchanging increasingly horrifying text messages with her son and other activists Saturday morning during the Hamas attack when those messages abruptly stopped and she has not been seen or heard from since.
Silver was born and raised in Canada but moved to Israel nearly 50 years ago as a young woman and has been a prominent activist for a number of different organizations ever since, most recently as a leader of a joint Arab-Jewish group known as Women Wage Peace, and was well-known for escorting sick Palestinians from Gaza to Israeli hospitals for necessary treatments.
Early Saturday morning, shortly after Hamas terrorists began their massive and well-coordinated assault into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, Silver was exchanging fearful messages with fellow activist Avital Brown, with the last of those messages reading: "It’s absolute chaos here," as well as "Terrorists have infiltrated Be’eri. There is shooting and screaming."
Brown, who had just attended a rally in Jerusalem a few days earlier with Silver, told NBC News, "I’m glad that I hugged her on Wednesday," and added, "And I’m definitely hoping that it’s not the last time I get to hug her."
Canada's The Globe and Mail reported that Silver had also been exchanging tense messages with her youngest son, Yonathan Zeigen, who is an activist who lives in Tel Aviv, prior to her sudden silence amid the ongoing Hamas attack on her village.
"I heard shots right outside the window. So we decided it’s better not to speak, so they don’t know she’s there," Zeigen, who had initially talked with his mother on the phone, said of what occurred. "We wrote messages up to the point she told me they were inside the house. And that was it."
Silver had also been sending messages to a friend and fellow activist named Ariella Giniger, including a final one that read: "They’re coming in. I’m hiding behind the door of the closet." Giniger, who had also been at the Jerusalem rally for peace days earlier, told the outlet, "And that’s it, I didn’t hear any more from her."
Her son Zeigen suspects that his mother was taken captive but is also holding out that she will instead be found dead at her home, and said, "No one told us if Israeli soldiers got to her house yet. So there is the possibility that’s she dead there, inside. But from what we gather she’s in Gaza."
The NBC News report quoted several other of Silver's personal friends and fellow activists, Israeli and Palestinian alike, who made it clear that she was a beloved and well-known figure who had earned the respect of everyone she encountered or worked with, whether in Israel or in Gaza.
CNN reported that it is believed that Hamas took at least 150 captives during Saturday's assault, mostly from a music festival in the Negev desert but also from several small towns and villages near the border with Gaza, including Be'eri, from which it is suspected that "multiple" captives were seized.
The vast majority of those captives are Israeli soldiers or civilians who range from young children to elderly adults, though it is suspected that at least around 20 of the captives are foreign citizens who lived in or were visiting Israel.
For what it is worth, The Times of Israel reported -- though the Israeli government has disputed it -- that officials from Qatar, ostensibly with quiet support from the U.S., are currently attempting to negotiate a prisoner swap that will involve Hamas releasing all of the female captives taken in exchange for Israel releasing all female Palestinian militants it has previously imprisoned.