Searching for the missing & trying to feed the found
NUSEIRAT, Gaza; RAMAT GAN, Israel––Forty-five days since Hamas terrorists killed more than 1,200 Israelis, foreign visitors, and foreign farm workers in a October 7, 2023 dawn sneak attack on kibbutz collective farms and an outdoor concert venue, abducting about 250 more, Let The Animals Live in Ramat Gan, Israel is still trying to discover what became of missing volunteers, donors, adopters, and their animals who were last seen during the Hamas raid.
Ironically, Let The Animals Live previously conducted many animal aid missions in Gaza, before helping animals in Hamas-controlled territory became too dangerous for any Israelis.
“Please nobody suggest Saeed coordinates with the Israeli army”
Sulala Animal Rescue, the only animal charity in Gaza, temporarily operating from Nuseirat, just south of Gaza City, is struggling to survive the Israeli Defense Force counter-attack with the several hundred cats and dogs in Sulala’s care.
A Belgian volunteer relays daily reports from Sulala Animal Rescue founder Saeed Al Err and his son Sa’ed Al Err to the outside world via social media, along with appeals for funds, collected by Animals Australia and Network for Animals, to be sent to Sulala Animal Rescue when possible.
“Please nobody suggest Saeed coordinates with the Israeli army for the dog shelter. This just not safe or possible for him,” the volunteer posted.
“Cannot close the windows”
Walking out to meet the advancing Israeli tanks in Gaza would obviously be dangerous, including because anyone seen cooperating, or suspected of cooperating, with the Israeli Defense Force is likely to be shot on sight by Hamas snipers.
Saeed Al Err told the Belgian volunteer early on November 20, 2023 that “They are burning candles, charcoal, wood and cardboard for light and to keep warm. It seems like everything for cooking and food is gone: there is no more salt and no more yeast. They are trying to use baking powder to make bread,” the volunteer said.
“He says they can’t close the windows because of the war. This is because if an explosion happens close by, the pressure will shatter the glass and everybody will be wounded by the glass shards.
“A lot of displaced people have their cats with them”
“Everybody displaced from the north is either staying with friends and relatives, or in schools,” the Belgian volunteer mentioned several days earlier. “Those who can rent, rent, but the prices have shot up to 30-40 times as much as before. Not just the rent prices– anything you can think of is 30-40 times more expensive.
“Saeed said there are many schools in his area, where there are so many displaced people, but really every area is like this. And a lot of displaced people have their cats with them.
“A few days ago,” the Belgian volunteer continued, “a school close to the place he is staying was bombed. He sent me videos, which I won’t share, to be extra safe, and in the foreground of the videos, there are a lot of dogs and cats.
“Saeed said they come to his house because he feeds them and gives them water, and leaves extra food for them at night.
“There is no more pet food”
“In Saeed’s area, there is no more pet food,” the Belgian volunteer noted. “There used to be one store, but it has closed. But Saeed still has a lot of food with him in the place he is staying. It’s enough for him not to raise any alarm bells yet.
“He gives food to everyone he can. He said he won’t be able to cover all the animals in Gaza, but for now, he is feeding a lot of them. He is also giving bags of food to people from other areas, telling them to give it to the refugees and the stray animals in their areas.
“Recently he gave a bag of food to a girl from Rafah, and two bags to a guy from Al Deir.”
Most of the Belgian volunteer’s updates from Sulala Animal Rescue describe individual rescues of shellshocked and hungry cats, commonly kept as indoor pets in Gaza, and dogs, mostly street dogs.
“Not everybody can keep taking care of their pets until the end, but a lot of people are trying,” the Belgian volunteer said.
Not every rescue story has a happy ending. In one case, the Belgian volunteer recounted, “I sent Saeed a screenshot of a video of a cat who was in the rubble shaking after a house was bombed.
“I gave him the name [of the Palestinian journalist who made the video]. Saeed said okay. An hour later I opened Twitter and saw the journalist was killed.”
Occasional rain storms, the Belgian volunteer observed, are “good for the animals who didn’t have water, but bad for the humans and animals who don’t have shelter.”
“Tai is deeply depressed”
On the Israeli side of the Gaza wall, Let the Animals Live posts frequent photos and brief accounts of volunteers, donors, adopters, and animals who have not been seen since October 7, 2023, most of whom are believed to have been kidnapped by Hamas, at least until their remains are identified by DNA testing of bone fragments found in burned homes and vehicles.
Offered Let the Animals Live on October 31, 2023, “Ofir saved [his dog] Tai’s life 13 years ago. Ever since they were inseparable.
“On his birthday, Ofir celebrated at the Nova festival,” the outdoor concert attacked by Hamas, “and one of his wishes was to have at least three more dogs like Tai.
“Ofir managed to save his partner Shoval and another friend, before he was kidnapped by Hamas. The home is empty without him. Tai is deeply depressed, waiting, with friends and family for Ofir’s swift return home.”
“Five cats & four dogs, scared & confused”
On November 2, 2023, Let the Animals Live described how, “Terrorists took over Rimon and Yagev’s house. ‘They’re shooting at our window. There are terrorists outside the house!’ Rimon wrote to her mother, before all contact with them was lost. Rimon and Yagev were kidnapped from their home in kibbutz Nir Oz. Two people who filled their lives with music, flowers and saving animals. Five cats and four dogs, scared and confused, are waiting with family and friends for Rimon and Yagev to come back home!”
On November 5, 2023, Let the Animals Live told the story of 12-year-old animal lover and advocate Eitan Yahalomi.
“On Saturday, October 7th, four terrorists entered his home in Nir Oz,” Let the Animals Live said. “They shot his father Ohad and kidnapped his mother Bat-Sheva and his sisters on one motorbike, and Eitan on another.
“With an incredible mother’s instinct, in a split second, Bat-Sheva managed to jump off the bike, holding her little daughters, and kept running until she got to safety. Eitan was held by two armed terrorists and was taken on the bike into Gaza, all alone.”
Amit & her cats
Also believed to be still a Hamas hostage, Let the Animals Live mentioned on November 5, 2023, was musician Yotam Haim, described as “a drummer who adores cats and dogs,” taken hostage from his home in kibbutz Kfar Aza.
A young woman named Amit and her cats Gingis, Hatool, and Ktana were the subjects of several Let the Animals Live postings, beginning on November 6, 2023.
“Amit lived with her three cats peacefully in kibbutz Kfar Aza,” Let the Animals Live recounted. “Amit was taken hostage. Her cats, whom she loved so much and cared for with endless devotion, witnessed all the unimaginable horrors of that day. They were spotted once, but couldn’t be captured.”
Three days later a Let the Animals Live volunteer updated, “We went to Kfar Aza today to look for the cats. The sights shown on TV cannot portray what the eyes, tearful with soot, see there,
“Hand prints on the wall, begging for help, trying to escape with nowhere to run to.
“Many cats comforted us in Kfar Aza,” the Let the Animal Live volunteer said. “But we haven’t found your cats, Amit. We’ll come back and look for them. Or you come back home and they’ll hear your voice and run to you with raised tails for a cuddle. Come home. Now.”
Eden, Tad, & Kai
On November 12, 2023, Let the Animals Live described how “Eden, along with her partner Ofek and her friend Livnat, went out to party at the Nova festival and were happy.
“When the massacre began, the three managed to escape from the party area, but their vehicle ran into a squad of terrorists who were shooting in all directions.
“Eden said to her father on the phone, ‘They are shooting at us, it’s really close. Take care of the dogs,’ and the connection was cut off.
“Ofek was murdered after two hours, and Livnat managed to escape and be saved from the inferno. Eden’s car was taken into Gaza, along with her, injured!
“Tad and Kai,” Eden’s dogs, “don’t understand where Eden has gone.”
The Bibas family & Tony the dog
For the Bibas family, Let the Animals Live narrated on November 13, 2023, “Tony the dog was always there with them.”
The murders of three generations of the Bibas family were “recorded on the terrorists’ cameras,” Let the Animals Live described.
Tony the dog was shot.
“The video of Shiri, petrified, trying to shield her babies from the monsters, is an image no one can forget. A few hours later, Hamas released an image of Yarden, who was taken hostage, wounded.
“Kfir, a nine-months-old baby, has been held by Hamas for more than a month! Ariel, four years old, is being held in dark tunnels by terrorists when he should be playing with his friends. Dad Yarden is injured, and mom Shiri doesn’t even know her parents have been murdered.”
Emily & Schnitzel
Artist and animal rescuer Inbar Heiman was last seen in a 38-second video clip “showing Inbar being dragged by four terrorists across a field.”
On November 17, 2023, Let the Animals Live celebrated Hamas hostage Emily’s ninth birthday.
“Right now she is being held by the terrorists who abducted her,” Let the Animals Live said. “Away from her family, away from her friends, away from her beloved dog Schnitzel, who is so sad without her.
“Emily was kidnapped to Gaza by Hamas terrorists when she was at a sleepover with her good friend Hila Rotem at kibbutz Be’eri. The terrorists forced their way into the house and kidnapped both girls along with Hila’s mother, Raya.”
Emily was initially listed among the dead.
“Emily must be brought back to a world where children celebrate birthdays with balloons, candy, and games,” Let the Animals Live finished.