Israeli family of 5, slain in each others’ arms by Hamas, is laid to rest

Aviv, Livnat, Rotem, Yonatan and Yiftach Kotz of Kfar Aza were found huddled on bed in their home, where terrorists murdered them; burned body of 5-year-old victim found in Be’ri

Mourners gather around the five coffins of the Kotz family during their funeral in Gan Yavne, Israel, October 17, 2023. (Ohad Zwigenberg/ AP)
Mourners gather around the five coffins of the Kotz family during their funeral in Gan Yavne, Israel, October 17, 2023. (Ohad Zwigenberg/ AP)

An Israeli family of five whose bodies were discovered in each other’s arms after they were killed by Hamas terrorists during a devastating onslaught earlier this month, were buried together in a funeral attended by hundreds of mourners.

Family and friends bid farewell Tuesday to the Kotz family — a couple and their three children, who were gunned down in their home at Kibbutz Kfar Aza, during the murderous invasion of southern Israel on October 7. They were buried side by side in a graveyard at Gan Yavne, 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Jerusalem.

War erupted when some 2,500 Hamas gunmen breached the border fence with the Gaza Strip and poured into Israel, slaughtering over 1,400 people, as they rampaged through southern regions. At least 1,000 of those slain were civilians. Some victims — including children — were mutilated, tortured, or raped. Thousands more were injured. In the hours until the IDF could end the incursion, nearly 200 other people, of all ages, were abducted and taken to Gaza as captives. The attack came alongside a barrage of 5,000 rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Hamas has continued to rain rockets on southern and central Israel since then.

At Kfar Aza, a kibbutz of around 765 residents, located five kilometers (three miles) east of northern Gaza, the entire civil defense team was killed. In total, more than 70 kibbutz members were murdered by the terrorists.

Aviv and Livnat Kotz, their daughter, Rotem, and sons, Yonatan and Yiftach, were found dead on a bed embracing each other, a family member said.

The family had moved to Israel from Boston and four years ago built the home at the kibbutz where Aviv had grown up, his wife’s sister, Adi Levy Salma, told the Israeli news outlet Ynet.

“We told her it’s dangerous, but she did not want to move away, as it was her home for life,” Levy Salma said.

Israel has retaliated for the unprecedented Hamas terror attack with intensive strikes on the Gaza Strip. With Israel simultaneously in a state of war and mourning, the funeral was one of many being held.

More than 3,400 people have been killed on the Palestinian side, according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry, and funerals there have been a fixture of daily life, with men running through streets carrying bodies in white sheets and shouting “Allahu akbar,” the Arabic phrase for “God is great.” Israel, which has vowed to destroy Hamas, says it is targeting areas where the terror group operates or hides, and has issued warnings to Gazans to leave areas it intends to attack.

In Israel, grieving family members and friends also bid farewell to Shiraz Tamam, an Israeli woman who was among at least 260 people gunned down as heavily armed terrorists stormed an electronic music festival.

Mourners, most wearing black tops and some in sunglasses, wiped away tears and held each other as they said goodbye to Tamam before her shroud-wrapped body was buried at a cemetery in Holon, in central Israel.

With more than 1,400 killed in Israel and many still unidentified, the funerals will continue for days or longer, as the nation tries to cope with the trauma of the attacks that exposed glaring weaknesses in a defense system some thought impenetrable.

Many families awoke on the day of the attacks to air raid sirens and Hamas-fired rockets sailing overhead.

Adi Levy Salma said her family rushed to their safe room at their home in Gedera and she texted her sister to see if she was okay.

But Livnat Kotz did not reply and did not answer phone calls. Levy Salma was more concerned, she said, when her niece, Rotem, did not respond.

“Then we started getting reports of terrorists who infiltrated the kibbutz,” Levy Salma said. “It was at that moment we realized something bad had happened. Their friends and neighbors picked up, but they didn’t. We were very worried.”

Mourners attend the funeral of Shiraz Tamam, killed by Hamas terrorists while attending a music festival, seen at a cemetery in Holon, central Israel, October 17, 2023. (Petros Giannakouris/AP)

At the Kotz family’s funeral, soldiers and civilians sobbed. Graves were piled high with flowers.

Livnat died a week short of her 50th birthday, her sister said. She worked to popularize old crafts and incorporate them into the school system. Her husband was a vice president at Kafrit Industries, a plastics manufacturer, the company said.

Rotem was a military training instructor in the Israeli Defense Forces. The boys played basketball at the Hapoel Tel Aviv Youth Academy.

“Amazing children with enormous hearts,” Levy Salma said. “Their whole lives were ahead of them.”

Eleven days after the attack, emergency workers are still trying to cope with the scale of the tragedy. On Wednesday, ZAKA emergency service volunteers uncovered the burnt body of a boy roughly 5 years old in the attic of a home in Kibbutz Be’eri on the southern border, the organization said. The burnt body of a woman was also found in the building, which had apparently been set on fire by Hamas terrorists.

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