Gaza war: Father of twins killed in Hamas attack says he is broken by deaths

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Yannai and Liel Hetzroni-Heller, 12-year-old twins, were killed in an attack on their kibbutz
By Lucy Manning
Special Correspondent

For the father of 12-year-old twins Yannai and Liel Hetzroni-Heller the last few weeks have been filled with agonising waits and devastating news.

It was nearly six weeks after the attacks by Hamas in Israel before Gavin Heller, from London, had confirmation that both his children had been killed.

The twins were killed at Kibbutz Be’eri with their great-aunt and grandfather.

Mr Heller said so little was found of Liel’s body that some of her toys were buried at a ceremony instead.

“I don’t even know how to put this into words,” he told the BBC. “They just found remnants of Liel… initially they didn’t have enough pieces to make a formal identification. They identified her literally by sieving the remnants. This will unfortunately live with me for the rest of my life.”

Israeli media has reported the children, who were British-Israeli, were held hostage by Hamas gunmen in a building that caught fire during a stand-off with Israeli forces.

His daughter was finally identified just five days ago, with the help of forensic archaeologists. “I was literally inconsolable with grief, not finding her body and at least having something to bury.”

The children’s great-aunt, who helped raise them after their mother suffered brain damage giving birth, and their grandfather were also murdered. Mr Heller believes they were killed for just one reason.

“It’s something that is such a shock that people can do this to other human beings just because they were Jewish.

“There was no other reason why these Hamas terrorists came in the kibbutz other than to kill, murder, maim Jewish children, babies, parents and old people all because they lived in the Jewish homeland.”

Mr Heller says Liel was “a bundle of energy, an extrovert. She loved to perform. She was like a princess. She was very popular and liked to be the centre of attention.”

He said Yannai was a very sporty child who loved tennis, football and basketball.

“He had a shyness about him that I think everyone respected… he was a lovely boy who was really coming into his own in terms of his character and personality.”

He mourns the life the twins will not now have.

“They really loved each other and unfortunately they will never be able to live their life to do what they wanted to do in the future and that really is a crying shame, an absolute tragedy… I won’t watch them grow up, I will never see them get married, I will never see the flourish as normal teenagers would.”

Mr Heller, who lives in the UK, recalled the agony of not knowing what had happened to his children for weeks after the attack on 7 October.

“It was just an utter sense of fear, terror… not knowing whether they were hostages in Gaza. The worst thing is I wasn’t able to protect them… and being in London not knowing where they were. It was agonising, absolutely agonising.”

Before the attack occurred, Mr Heller had been due to visit his children in October. Liel, he said, had asked him to bring her some perfume.

“I have lost both my children who I cared for deeply and loved.”

There were 1,200 Israelis killed by Hamas on 7 October and more than 200 still being held hostage in Gaza.

Mr Heller has one wish. “Something of this magnitude should never happen again. The world must come together and ensure this awful atrocity should never happen, ever, ever again.”

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