Israeli actor David Cunio is believed to have been abducted by Hamas alongside his wife, 3-year-old daughters, sister-in-law and niece during Saturday’s massacre.
Cunio, who made his debut in Berlinale-premiering feature film “Youth” in 2013 alongside his twin brother Eitan Cunio, was a resident of Nir Oz, a kibbutz in Southern Israel that was the scene of some of the worst atrocities perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists.
Cunio’s brother-in-law, Aharon Aloni, told CNN that the actor woke up to the sound of bombs on Saturday morning and sought refuge in his home’s bomb shelter alongside his wife Sharon, the couple’s 3-year-old twin daughters, Sharon’s sister Danielle and her 5-year-old daughter Amelia. But after terrorists set fire to their home the family were forced to flee and have not been seen or heard from since, leading officials to believe they are among the 150 people who have been abducted into Gaza.
“We woke up Saturday to alarms and we called them,” Aloni said. “They told us they’re in the safe room and there are terorrists in the kibbutz. They told us they can hear terrorists at their neighbours’ [house] and after 10 or 20 minutes they said they heard terrorists in their house and they’re not sure they’re going to make it. They said ‘I love you.’ Later on we got a message that they are aborting the house and that’s the last time I heard from them.”
“This entire situation is not military against military,” Aloni added. “It’s a military — no less than that, Hamas is a military — against civilians. Mothers, sisters, children, my 3-year-old [nieces], my 5-year-old [niece] is there. All I want is to see them again.”
The attack on Saturday — which also saw hundreds of young people killed at a music festival — was the deadliest in Israel’s history and the worst attack on Jews since the Holocaust. Over 1,000 victims have been confirmed dead while over 2,000 have been injured.
The attacks took place during Shabbat and a High Holiday almost 50 years to the day since a league of Arab nations launched an attack on Israel in what became known as the Yom Kippur war. Unsurprisingly, the Israeli film and TV industry — like most of the country — has shut down as the country reels from the onslaught.
Tom Shoval, who directed the award-winning feature “Youth,” spoke to Variety about Cunio’s abduction and hopes that the actor and his family would be found alive. “This Saturday this nightmare happened and we don’t have a lot of info about where they are and we presume they are being held in Gaza,” Shoval said. “It’s him and his wife and twin babies. I’m hoping they will be released soon and that something more dreadful hasn’t happened to them.”
Shoval called upon governments in the West to aid the location and retrieval of Hamas hostages in Gaza. “It’s crucial and important that there is not a lot of time and we need to do everything we can to release these hostages, which include kids and old people, and bring them home. This is a real emergency.”
“Holy Spider” producer Sol Bondy, who also co-produced “Youth,” told Variety: “Dragging civilians into this terrible conflict is a pure tragedy, on both sides. Governments should do everything in their power to keep the people out of this — and ensure safe returns to their homes. As a father of two children myself, I cannot imagine what David and his wife must be going through and pray for their safe return.“
Kirsten Niehuus, head of German funder Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, who financially backed “Youth” in 2013, added: “We as Medienboard have very strong ties to the Israeli film community. We share the pain with the Israeli people and condemn the cruel attacks on innocent people. We urge the kidnappers to release their hostages and thereby reopen the door to prevent more bloodshed.”