As Hamas torched their home, mom told her daughter: ‘I am sorry, we are about to die’

Danielle Aloni, abducted by Hamas on Oct. 7, speaks about capture and how she strived to take care of herself and five-year-old Emilia during 49 days of captivity

Screen capture from video of Daniella Aloni, who was abducted by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023 and held for 49 days in the Gaza Strip. (Channel 12. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Screen capture from video of Daniella Aloni, who was abducted by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023 and held for 49 days in the Gaza Strip. (Channel 12. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

An Israeli woman whom Hamas terrorists kidnaped during their devastating October 7 assault on Israel has described the moment she prepared her five-year-old daughter for them both to die.

Danielle Aloni, 44, and her daughter Emilia, 6, were on Kibbutz Nir Oz visiting her sister Sharon Aloni Cunio’s family when the community was overrun by terrorists amid their massive assault on southern Israel that killed over 1,200 people, mostly civilians. They were among at least 240 people who were abducted to the Gaza Strip during the attack.

Thousands of terrorists burst through the border from the Gaza Strip, rampaging murderously through southern Israel, killing those they found. Families were shot dead as they huddled in their homes, or burned alive inside them.

Danielle spoke to both channels 12 and 13 for interviews broadcast on Saturday.

As terrorists overran the kibbutz, Daniella, Emilia, her sister Sharon, brother-in-law David Cunio, and their 3-year-old twin daughters, Yuli and Emma all sought refuge in the family’s secure room, which was designed to withstand a rocket strike, but that did not have a lock on the door.

They knew that terrorists had infiltrated the kibbutz and they could hear the sounds of shots being fired outside. They then heard sounds of their home being ransacked, but the terrorists were unable to open the door to the secure room as David was holding it shut.

Instead, the terrorists set the building on fire. David took Yulia and climbed out of the room’s window, hoping to escape. They were both captured by terrorists.

Those still inside closed the steel shutters over the window but quickly began to suffocate from the smoke seeping into the room.

Danielle Aloni, 44, and her daughter Emilia were visiting Aloni’s sister Sharon Alony Cunio and family when they were abducted from Kibbutz Nir Oz on October 7, 2023. They were released on November 24, 2023 (Courtesy)

Danielle discussed the situation with Sharon and argued that, for the sake of the children, it would be better to have a quick, painful death, under the guns of the terrorists than to slowly suffocate in the smoke.

“I had to choose which would be the easier way to die,” she recalled.

Channel 13 aired a voice message she left for her family saying “They are burning our home, terrorists have come in, they tried to shoot us. We are being burned in the home. If we go out they will shoot us.”

“One way or the other we will die. That’s it, that’s it, this is our end,” Danielle said.

She told Channel 12 that she hugged her daughter Emilia to her, and said: “My love, I am sorry, we are about to die.”

Then together with Sharon, they opened the window of the shelter “and I waited for the volley of shots.”

But a group of terrorists were waiting outside, indicated to them that they should come out, helped them climb from the window, and surrounded them.

They were told to start walking and Sharon became separated from them, leaving Danielle with daughter Emilia and her niece Emma.

At that point, said Danielle, she did not consider the possibility that they would be taken as hostages.

A screenshot from a propaganda video released by Hamas on October 30, 2023, showing three Israeli hostages: Rimon Buchshtab Kirsht (left), Danielle Aloni (center), and Lena Trupanov (right)

The terrorists brought a trailer they had taken from the kibbutz and forced Danielle, Emilia and Emma to climb aboard along with other abducted kibbutz members.

As they drove through the fields to the border, Danielle said she began to realize what was happening. Their captors were “drunk with joy” and taking endless photographs as they were taken away.

“I’m going to Gaza. Fuck,” she recalled thinking to herself as she spoke to Channel 12, but still held out hope that the army would intervene.

They reached the border and were met by crowds of Gazan civilians who began beating those in the trailer as they drove past.

Danielle said she threw her arms around the two young girls and tried to shield them as she was beaten on the head.

Once further into Gaza, the vehicle stopped and a terrorist pulled Emma from her arms.

She tried to plead to not be separated, telling him in Arabic, “My daughter, my daughter,” but he pulled her niece away and threatened her with his rifle.

“If I die here, then my daughter [Emilia] will also die,” she recalled thinking to herself. “I couldn’t protect the girl [Emma], a girl of three years and three months.”

Until she was set free, Danielle said, she did not know what had happened to Emma and carried relentless guilt that she was not able to protect her.

Danielle, daughter Emilia and other hostages were taken into Hamas’s extensive tunnel network, where Danielle said she saw other captives, some of them with their hands bound. Their faces, she said, showed shock and fear.

Some of the captives were injured, with open wounds and bruises. She saw no other children. None of the hostages was given medical treatment or medicines they needed for chronic diseases, she said.

After an initial three days in the tunnels, they were brought up to an apartment where they were kept for 13 days and then brought back underground because of the bombing from Israel’s military response to the October 7 attack.

“We were very afraid” of being hit by an errant bomb, she said.

During the weeks they were held captive, they were moved often. Danielle was also forced to appear in a propaganda video that Hamas released of her and two other hostages.

At first, Danielle was too afraid to ask her captors what had happened to her sister, brother-in-law, and their two girls, fearing the answer she would receive. Eventually, she did ask and was told that Sharon and the two girls were in a hospital.

Danielle Alon with daughter Emilia at Schneider Medical Center in Petah Tikva, November 25, 2023 (Courtesy)

Throughout their captivity she tried to take care of Emilia, convincing her that they were safe from the bombs underground and playing mind games to keep her spirits up, such as choosing an imaginary gift every day and inventing stories.

“She got all of the presents” once they were released, Danielle told Channel 12. “She got more than 49 presents.”

“It was a constant attempt, really to soften the terrible trauma that she witnessed.”

And every day she prayed.

“God, listen to the voice of a girl,” she would begin, and then pray to be released and brought back to Israel, and for the health of all the captives.

She would ask Emilia to repeat each sentence after her.

“As a mother, you gather strengths that were not certain beforehand,” Danielle said. “You say to yourself ‘I will do everything, everything, for my girl to get through this trauma in the smoothest way’. And then you do everything.”

She described pleading for food or the chance to wash, for the sake of her daughter.

Though she strived to always appear optimistic that they would be released, she admitted that deep inside herself she did not believe they would “see the light of day.”

“I had to broadcast to her [Emilia] strength,” she said.

One day, she had a “serious panic attack” for half an hour in the tunnels and recalled that among those who helped her was Yarden Bibas, “who held my hand.” Bibas’s wife Shiri and two young sons were also kidnapped on October 7, but were taken to Gaza separately from Yarden. Hamas has claimed that Shiri Bibas, son Ariel and baby Kfir are dead; the IDF has said it has not verified the claim and described it as psychological terror.

After that, Danielle swore to herself that she would never allow Emilia to see her disheartened again, “because all her strength she was drawing from me.”

“The child must not slip into depression, the child must not experience hopelessness,” she told Channel 13.

Three days before she was eventually released, a terrorist told Danielle she was to be set free the following day, which did not happen.

“That is very crushing, and then you don’t believe [that you will be freed],” she said.

An IDF officer embraces Danielle Aloni after her release from Hamas captivity on November 24, 2023. (Courtesy)

When she was finally brought out to be returned to Israel as part of a temporary ceasefire at the end of November, Danielle recalled how crowds of Gazans jostled the Red Cross vehicle as they were driven back toward Israel.

“There were crowds, they attacked the cars of the Red Cross, shook them madly,” she said, which left Emilia “hysterical” and fearing for their lives.

The first news she got of the fate of the rest of her family came from a fellow hostage, released on the same day as her, November 24. As they were both being treated in Schneider Medical Center, she discovered the other hostage had seen her sister Sharon.

“Wow, what a moment that was,” Danielle recalled.

Emilia, she said, is suffering serious post-trauma issues and remains very frightened, fearful of any sound that reminds her of the whistle of a rocket about to hit. She also has a “terrible fear” of air raid sirens and no longer feels safe even in their secure room because she fears “the bad people” might again come to take her away. She is also fearful of hearing a foreign language.

Asked how she is herself, Danielle responded “I am here, but my heart is there. Our family is not complete.”

David Cunio was abducted from Kibbutz Nir Oz on October 7, 2023 (Courtesy)

She urged constant negotiations to free the remaining hostages and rejected calls from some Israeli officials that freed hostages not speak publicly about their experiences.

“We need to shout, and we need to talk, and we need to make a lot of noise” on behalf of those still held, she said. “Everyone needs to come back.”

Danielle’s sister Sharon Aloni Cunio, 33, and 3-year-old twin daughters, Yuli and Emma, were released on November 27. Husband David Cunio is still captive in Gaza.

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