Two Israeli communities have announced the deaths of residents as a result of Hamas’s October 7 attacks, based on new findings and information: Bat Yam resident Eitan Levy and Kibbutz Be’eri member Dror Kaplun.
On Friday the Bat Yam municipality said Eitan Levy was dead. He was previously considered a hostage in Gaza. The municipality said it was informed Thursday night by the IDF that Levy was no longer alive. His body is held in Gaza.
It was not clear how and when Levy was murdered.
The 53-year-old was a taxi driver, ferrying a client from central Israel to Kibbutz Be’eri on the Gaza border when the Hamas attack began. That morning, Eitan spoke to his son around 7 a.m., telling him that he was dropping off his passenger.
Around 15 minutes later, he called his son again to let him know about the intense rocket fire from Gaza. He then ran into a Hamas ambush. With his father still on the phone, son Shahar said he heard voices arguing, and Arabic being spoken in the background.
He later found out that his father was told to sit, and asked to identify himself. About an hour later, the phone was still open and Shahar heard only Arabic being spoken, and then the phone was disconnected.
On Thursday Kibbutz Be’eri announced that resident Dror Kaplun, 68, was murdered during the October 7 terror onslaught on southern Israel. Kaplun had also previously been presumed to be held hostage in Gaza.
His death was verified with the help of archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority after his DNA was found to match bones uncovered by the fence of Kibbutz Be’eri. The archaeologists have joined efforts to identify victims of Hamas’s October 7 massacres.
Kaplun’s wife Dr. Marcelle Frailich Kaplun was also murdered during the attack, when some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and seizing some 240 hostages of all ages.
Be’eri was one of the hardest-hit communities in the attacks on southern Israel, with some 10 percent of its 1,100 residents killed.
In the hours after the attack, once they had stopped receiving WhatsApp messages from their father, Kaplun’s children saw a Hamas video showing Marcelle and Dror in their pajamas, seemingly unhurt, with bare feet and hands bound, being shoved along a Be’eri street by terrorists.
But the following day another video surfaced, showing the two lying on a sidewalk with several others, not moving.
While Marcelle was confirmed dead a week after the attacks, Dror’s phone was located a few days later in Gaza, leading to suspicions that he had been taken hostage.
Still looking for answers, Kaplun’s children returned to Kibbutz Be’eri with a film crew from Kan news a month after the attacks to collect dried blood and fragments that could possibly help reveal what happened that day. With the assistance of Kaplun’s son-in-law Guy Lenman, a forensic scientist, they were able to use the video footage to find the spot where Marcelle and Dror had been seen on the ground.
Lenman passed the evidence on to the authorities, urging them to come back to Be’eri and see what they could find.
Two months later, the family was notified that archaeologists had identified Kaplun’s remains.
Archaeologists have been using techniques from their experience in excavations of burnt and destroyed ancient sites to comb and sieve the ash from burnt houses in Be’eri, Kfar Aza and Nir Oz, three kibbutzim devastated in the attacks, in order to uncover and identify remains of attack victims.
The son of Holocaust survivors, Kaplun was born in Israel and spent his entire life in the Gaza periphery, living in Kibbutz Ruhama before moving to Marcelle’s home in Kibbutz Be’eri.
His children say he had been waiting eagerly for retirement, planning to spend his time traveling and being a grandfather to his five grandchildren.
The couple, who wed 20 years ago in a second marriage for both, resided in Be’eri where Frailich Kaplun had lived for 40 years.