Mother killed while shielding her son from Hamas gunmen among US victims in Israel

Oct 9, 2023, 5:15 PM

Deborah and Shlomi Matias were killed by Hamas militants over the weekend.
Mandatory Credit:	Courte...

Deborah and Shlomi Matias were killed by Hamas militants over the weekend. Mandatory Credit: Courtesy Ilan Troen

(CNN) — Ilan Troen said he was on the phone with his daughter in Israel when she was shot and killed by Hamas gunmen while shielding her son from their bullets.

Troen, a professor emeritus from Brandeis University in Massachusetts, said his daughter and son-in-law, Deborah and Shlomi Matias, were killed by Hamas militants over the weekend. Troen’s grandson, 16-year-old Rotem Matias, was shot but will survive, Troen told CNN’s Poppy Harlow on Monday.

The killings came after the Gaza-based militant group launched devastating attacks on Israel early Saturday that left at least 900 people there dead.

At least 11 US citizens have died, President Joe Biden said in a Monday statement, adding there are also Americans who remain unaccounted for. It is also “likely” Americans are among those being held hostage Hamas, the statement said.

As desperate families wait for any scraps of information about missing loved ones, Troen said he has “too much information” about what happened when the gunmen burst into his daughter’s home.

“We were on the phone with Deborah as she was killed,” Troen said. “We were on the phone the entire day with our grandson, Rotem, as he lay first under her body, and then found a place to escape under a blanket in a laundry.”

Rotem was shot in the stomach, Troen said, but will recover.

“The brunt of the shot was borne by his mother,” he said. “The terrorists who came, they had explosives and blew up the front door to their house and then blew out the front door to their so-called safe room.”

Rotem hid for more than 12 hours after he was shot, texting on his phone to communicate with people who were coaching him on how to breathe and how to manage “the blood that was coming out of his abdomen,” Troen said, adding Rotem’s phone was down to a 4% charge when he was rescued.

Deborah Matias attended the Rimon School of Music in the Tel Aviv area, where she met her husband, Troen told CNN.

“Deborah was a child of light and life,” Troen said. “She, rather than becoming a scientist or a physician, she said to me one day, ‘Dad, I have to do music, because it’s in my soul.’”

Troen spoke to CNN from Be’er Sheva, Israel, where he said jet planes flew over his house into Gaza. “This is not a normal war,” he said. “It isn’t like there’s a front and rear.”

Americans remain unaccounted for

Meanwhile, US officials are working with Israeli authorities to learn more about the whereabouts of Americans who remain missing and confirm reports of those being held hostage, Biden said.

Jacob Ben Senior said his daughter Danielle was attending the Nova music festival near the Gaza-Israel border and has not been heard from since Friday. Ben Senior said he has been calling her phone since Saturday morning but has not been able to reach her.

Born in Los Angeles, Danielle Ben Senior is a 34-year Israeli-American citizen who has lived most of her life in Israel, according to her father. Danielle was working at the Nova festival with a group of event organizers, her father said.

A mother and daughter from the Chicago area who were visiting relatives in Israel are also missing and it’s feared they are being held hostage, a family member told CNN.

US citizens Judith Tai Raanan and Natali Raanan were visiting relatives in Nahal Oz, a kibbutz that was attacked by Gazan militants on Saturday. The family said they are in touch with the US Embassy.

Judith Raanan’s brother Adi Leviatan said he suspected the pair was taken hostage after not hearing from them since the weekend. Natali and Judith arrived in Israel on September 2, he said.

Nahal Oz is in southern Israel, about one and a half miles from the Gaza border. Dozens of Gaza fighters took control of a military base nearby, and an IDF spokesperson told CNN there was fighting in Nahal Oz on Sunday.

Following the attacks, Israel’s Minister of Defense on Monday ordered the “complete siege” of Gaza, cutting off electricity, food, fuel and water to the enclave. This comes as Israel has pounded Gaza with airstrikes and formally declared war on Hamas on Sunday.

More than 680 Palestinians have been killed, according to Gaza’s health ministry, and medical care has been complicated by Israel cutting power to the territory.

It’s unclear whether any US citizens are among those killed or injured in Gaza.

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Mother killed while shielding her son from Hamas gunmen among US victims in Israel