Israel lays to rest Shani Louk whose murder symbolised brutality of Oct 7 attacks

Shani Louk's mother at her grave during the funeral in Srigim, in Israel
Shani Louk's mother at her grave during the funeral in Srigim, in Israel - REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
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Israel on Sunday laid to rest Shani Louk, the 22 year-old whose death at the hands of Hamas came to symbolise the brutality of the Oct 7 attacks.

Seven months on from the worst terror attack in Israel’s history, hundreds gathered for the funeral in the small town of Srigim to pay tribute to Louk, whose body was paraded through the streets of Gaza after she was kidnapped at a music festival.

Speaking at the funeral, her father, Nissim, who had called on the public to attend, tearfully recounted how she had tried to escape in a car with friends before being surrounded by Hamas terrorists and murdered.

In her final moments, she had called her older sister to tell her she was on her way north to Tel Aviv, assuring her that “everything will be ok”, he revealed in a painful recollection of the moment he lost his “light”.

“I want your forgiveness – we didn’t understand how dangerous it was for you to go there. We understood it was a party – you said there was police, security, there were army bases there.

“We didn’t realise how serious the risk would be there,” he said, his voice breaking as he spoke. “As a father I failed to protect you. Forgive me.”

Shani Louk's mother is comforted by a friend during the funeral of her daughter in Moshav Srigim
Shani Louk's mother is comforted by a friend during the funeral of her daughter in Moshav Srigim - ABIR SULTAN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Shani’s parents on Friday learned that Israeli commandos had recovered her body along with two others who were among the more than 250 hostages taken on October 7 – the day now dubbed the Black Sabbath.

Her mother, Ricarda, said it was “a small gift” to have her daughter brought back home to the small agricultural community she called home.

It was impossible not to recognise her daughter in the images from Oct 7, with her thick dreadlocked hair and distinctive tattoos.

“For three weeks we thought she was alive and hoped she would come to us,” she said.

The Israeli army brought the German-Israeli’s body home on Friday, which she said was “a relief” after having lost hope for so long.

“I didn’t believe we would ever see her body,” she said during the funeral at the graveyard of the family’s moshav, an agricultural community in the Jerusalem hills called Srigim.

Shani’s mother described her daughter, a tattoo artist, as funny, creative, clever, curious, and living an “intense life with all of her heart”.

Shani had been confirmed dead on Oct 30 after forensic investigators combing the site of the festival massacre discovered a fragment of her skull on the road leading out of the Nova site in Reim, southern Israel.

She is believed to have been killed before being taken to Gaza.

Shani Louk became a symbol of the victims of the Oct 7 Hamas attacks
Shani Louk became a symbol of the victims of the Oct 7 Hamas attacks

Her brother Amit, leading the coffin parade, spoke of his pride at being her brother, calling her “my best friend”, speaking of the joy they shared as they went to parties and enjoyed life and friendship together.

“I’m proud to have been able to receive your energy, your common sense,” he said. “I was always jealous of how much energy you had. You always gave me strength. I will never stop missing you, sitting with you, speaking to you, partying with you.”

“There is no day I don’t see the sun and see you, no day I don’t hear the birdsong and think of you.”

President Isaac Herzog, an old family friend of generations, sent an address to the family, expressing his condolences for the girl he said “only wanted to dance”.

In a speech delivered by one of her relatives, he said: “From the moment we knew she was murdered, we prayed she would return home but then our heroic soldiers had to bring her home.

“I wish you can gain a little comfort that she is now buried next to you.”

To the horror of Shani’s loved ones, the photo of her dead body being paraded as a trophy by armed Hamas terrorists won the team picture of the year at this year’s Pictures Of The Year International, awarded to Associated Press.

“In your death you became a symbol”, her father said in his address, a symbol of the horrors of what he said was a black day. “You were the light to the dark of that terror,” he said.

Mourners carry Shani Louik's coffin. Her body was recovered from Gaza by Israeli commandos
Mourners carry Shani Louik's coffin. Her body was recovered from Gaza by Israeli commandos - MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP

The Hamas attack which left 1,200 dead in a single day, including some 360 partygoers at the Nova festival. Over 250 more were taken hostage.

As the war in Gaza rages on, 128 hostages remain in Gaza, 124 taken on Oct 7, with 39 of those confirmed dead already. Among those are 17 women and two children under the age of five.

But indirect truce talks mediated by the US, Qatar and Egypt aimed at freeing the remaining hostages appear to have reached a standstill, with many of the hostages’ families and their supporters blaming the Israeli government.

Louk’s father, Nissim, lashed out at the government.

“Our leadership makes the same mistakes again and again,” he said, quoting Albert Einstein, who said only fools repeat their mistakes and expect a different outcome each time.

“If they continue making the same mistakes of the last few decades, we are likely to lose our country,” he said.

After the eulogies, friends of Shani sang an anti-war song she had written.

Called “the home song”, it included the lyrics: “The day is finished, it’s dark, I want to go home … I don’t want a war, I want to go home…”


05:17 PM BST

That’s all from today

On Sunday May 19 Israeli troops moved in on the Gaza Strip’s far-southern city of Rafah, which the army describes as the last Hamas stronghold and where the United States says 800,000 civilians have been newly displaced by the fighting.  White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, meanwhile, met with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, where he was expected to try and stop a full-scale assault on Rafah.

The key developments from the day were:

  • Rescuers in Iran were trying to reach a helicopter involved in “an incident” with Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi on board, according to Iranian state television.

  • Mourners gathered for the funeral of Shani Louk, a 22-year-old who was killed by Hamas at the Nova music festival on October 7.

  • US president Joe Biden called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and said he was working on a “lasting, durable peace” that would include the creation of a Palestinian state.

  • An Israeli strike killed 31 people in central Gaza, the Palestinian territory’s civil defence agency said

  • The stranglehold on aid reaching Gaza threatens an “apocalyptic” outcome, the UN’s humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths has said as he warned of famine in the besieged territory.

  • Jordanian foreign minister Ayman Safadi said that the kingdom demanded an international investigation into what it said were many war crimes committed during Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.

  • A China-bound oil tanker in the Red Sea was struck and temporarily disabled by a ballistic anti-ship missile fired by Houthi militants, the US Central Command said.

  • Two Israeli soldiers were killed in a battle in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, the military said on Sunday.


04:25 PM BST

Pro-Palestinian protesters set up a new encampment at Drexel University

Pro-Palestinian protesters set up a new encampment at Drexel University in Philadelphia over the weekend, prompting a lockdown of school buildings, a day after authorities thwarted an attempted occupation of a school building at the neighboring University of Pennsylvania campus.

After several hundred demonstrators marched from Philadelphia’s City Hall to west Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon, Drexel said in a statement that about 75 protesters began to set up an encampment on the Korman Quad on the campus.

About a dozen tents remained Sunday, blocked off by barricades and monitored by police officers. No arrests were reported.

Drexel president John Fry said in a message that the encampment “raises understandable concerns about ensuring everyone’s safety,” citing what he called “many well-documented instances of hateful speech and intimidating behavior at other campus demonstrations.” University buildings were on lockdown and were “open only to those with clearance from Drexel’s Public Safety,” he said.


04:06 PM BST

Biden says working for ‘durable peace’ in Middle East

US president Joe Biden has called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and said he was working on a “lasting, durable peace” that would include the creation of a Palestinian state.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony at the former university of civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr, Mr Biden said he was pushing for a regional peace deal “to get a two-state solution, the only solution.”


03:28 PM BST

Ireland to recognise Palestinian statehood

Ireland will recognise Palestinian statehood before the end of this month, Ireland’s premier Simon Harris has insisted.

Mr Harris made the comments following reports of a diplomatic row with Israeli president Isaac Herzog over the government’s plan.

The Taoiseach spoke by phone with Mr Herzog on Friday where he set out Ireland’s desire to see an immediate ceasefire in Gaza as well as “urgent and unhindered access” for humanitarian aid.

RTE reported that sources close to the Israeli president said he warned Mr Harris that unilateral recognition of Palestine could jeopardise any hope of Hamas releasing the hostages it continues to hold in Gaza and encourage further attacks on Israel.

However, Mr Harris said the action would not be unilateral and said he was not interested in getting involved in a “back and forth” with the president of Israel.


03:05 PM BST

Biden sends top adviser to try and halt Rafah invasion

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan has now met with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Joe Biden had sent Mr Sullivan to Israel to try and stop a full-scale assault on Rafah, calling instead for targeted attacks against Hamas.

Israel has been pushing into the city that it says is the last bastion of Hamas forces, forcing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to flee.

Israeli forces also pushed deeper into the narrow alleyways of Jabalia in northern Gaza, returning to an area that they said they had cleared earlier in the conflict, residents said.


03:05 PM BST

Photos from the funeral of Shani Louk

Parents of German-Israeli Shani Louk during her funeral in Srigim
Parents of German-Israeli Shani Louk during her funeral in Srigim - REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
People embrace at the funeral of Shani Louk
People embrace at the funeral of Shani Louk - REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
People carry the coffin to the ceremony
People carry the coffin to the ceremony - REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

02:43 PM BST

Watch: Israeli army video shows what it says are operations in Rafah


02:07 PM BST

Iranian president’s helicopter crashes

Rescuers in Iran are trying to reach a helicopter involved in “an incident” with Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi on board, according to Iranian state television.

Initial reports indicate a hard landing incident, without elaborating on who else was on board.

Semiofficial news agencies offer varying explanations for what was happening.

Mr Raisi was reportedly traveling in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province. A rescue operation is ongoing.


01:29 PM BST

Health ministry in Gaza says war death toll at 35,456

The health ministry in Gaza said Sunday that at least 35,456 people have been killed in the territory during more than seven months of war between Israel and Palestinian militants.

The toll includes 70 deaths over the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said, adding that 79,476 people have been wounded in the Gaza Strip since the war began.


12:50 PM BST

UN aid chief warns of ‘apocalyptic’ consequences of Gaza shortages

The stranglehold on aid reaching Gaza threatens an “apocalyptic” outcome, the UN’s humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths has said as he warned of famine in the besieged territory.

“If fuel runs out, aid doesn’t get to the people where they need it, that famine, which we have talked about for so long, and which is looming, will not be looming anymore. It will be present,” Mr Griffiths said.

“And I think our worry, as citizens of the international community, is that the consequence is going to be really, really hard. Hard, difficult, and apocalyptic,” he told AFP on the sidelines of meetings with Qatari officials in Doha.

Mr Griffith said some 50 trucks of aid per day could reach the hardest-hit north of Gaza through the reopened Erez crossing.

But battles near the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings in Gaza’s south meant the vital routes were “effectively blocked”, he explained.

“So aid getting in through land routes to the south and for Rafah, and the people dislodged by Rafah is almost nil,” Mr Griffiths added.


12:18 PM BST

Funeral of British aid worker to be held this week

The funeral of a British man who was killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza is being held this week.

James ‘Jim’ Henderson, from Cornwall, was among seven World Central Kitchen workers who died when their convoy was hit outside the Deir al-Balah warehouse in March.

James "Jim" Henderson
James "Jim" Henderson from Cornwall, was among seven World Central Kitchen workers who died when their convoy was hit outside the Deir al-Balah warehouse in March. - World Central Kitchen/WCK.org/PA

His family paid tribute to the 33-year-old former Royal Marine saying he was an “incredible man”.

Ahead of his funeral at Truro Cathedral on Wednesday, they said Jim “died doing something that mattered to him”.

They said they would “never comprehend his loss” as the former Royal Marine had “so much more to achieve in his life”.


11:55 AM BST

Pictured: Eurovision contestant performs in Tel Aviv

Eurovision contestant Eden Golan, performs her unsung version of Hurricane at a rally calling for the release of hostages in Tel Aviv
Eurovision contestant Eden Golan performs her unsung version of Hurricane at a rally calling for the release of hostages in Tel Aviv - Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images

11:36 AM BST

Jordan demands investigation of ‘war crimes’ in Gaza

Jordanian foreign minister Ayman Safadi has said that the kingdom demanded an international investigation into what it said were many war crimes committed during Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.

In remarks made during a press conference with the head of the UN Palestinian refugee agency, Safadi said those responsible for documentated crimes should be brought to justice.


11:26 AM BST

Six Penn students arrested

A half-dozen University of Pennsylvania students were among 19 pro-Palestinian protesters arrested during an attempt to occupy a school building, university police said Saturday.

Their arrests came a week after authorities broke up a protest encampment on campus and arrested nine students, and as other colleges across the country, have either negotiated agreements with students or called in police,

Members of Penn Students Against the Occupation of Palestine announced the action Friday at the school’s Fisher-Bennett Hall, urging supporters to bring “flags, pots, pans, noise-makers, megaphones” and other items, the University of Pennsylvania Division of Public Safety said in a news release.

Officers could be seen closing in “within the hour,” The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. University police supported by city police then escorted the protesters out and secured the building, news outlets reported.

Police said after clearing the building that they recovered “lock-picking tools and homemade metal shields fashioned from oil drums.”

Exit doors had been secured with zip ties and barbed wire and barricaded with metal chairs and desks, while windows were covered by newspaper and cardboard, and bike racks and metal chairs blocked entrances, police said.

Seven of the students arrested on Friday remained in custody Saturday awaiting felony charges.


11:00 AM BST

More than 30 killed overnight in Israeli strike

An Israeli air strike targeting a house in a refugee camp in the centre of Gaza killed 31 people and injured 20 more, according to the Palestinian civil defence agency

Palestinian official news agency Wafa reported that the wounded included several children, and rescuers were searching for missing people trapped under the rubble. The Israeli army said it was checking the report.

Fierce battles and heavy Israeli bombardments have been reported in the central Nuseirat camp since the military launched an operation focussing on the southern city of Rafah in early May.


10:49 AM BST

China-bound oil tanker hit by Houthi missile in Red Sea

A China-bound oil tanker in the Red Sea was struck and temporarily disabled by a ballistic anti-ship missile fired by Houthi militants, the US Central Command said.

The strike on the Greek-owned M/T Wind caused flooding that knocked out its propulsion and steering, which the crew restored without help from a coalition vessel that responded to a distress call. The Wind, which most recently docked in Russia, resumed its course under its own power, Centcom said in a statement. No casualties were reported.

Iran-backed Houthis have been attacking warships and merchant vessels passing through the Red Sea since mid-November, especially those linked to Israel, the US and the UK, in response to Israel’s war in Gaza. They’ve effectively closed a key global shipping route, forcing ships traveling between Asia and Europe to avoid the Suez Canal and go around southern Africa.


10:38 AM BST

Iran confirms indirect talks with United States

Iran has confirmed that it held indirect talks with arch foe the United States in Oman despite the two countries having no diplomatic relations, state media reported.

Washington and Tehran have long been sharply at odds with tensions centred on Iran’s contested nuclear programme and heightened by the Gaza war between their respective allies Israel and Hamas.

On Friday, American news website Axios reported that US and Iranian officials held indirect talks in Oman “on how to avoid escalating regional attacks”.

The official IRNA news agency said late Saturday that “the representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations confirmed indirect negotiations between Iran and the United States in Oman”.

It quoted him as saying that “these negotiations were not the first and will not be the last”, without giving the time and place of the talks.


10:20 AM BST

Shani Louk ‘can finally rest’ say parents as they prepare to bury her months after Oct 7 death

German-Israeli Shani Louk can finally rest after her body was brought back to Israel to be buried on Sunday, her family said, more than seven months after she was killed during Hamas’s massacre on October 7.

Louk, a 23-year-old tattoo artist, was celebrating with friends at the Nova music festival just inside Israel before it was attacked by gunmen from the Palestinian militant group.

Her body was soon seen in a video slung across the back of a pickup truck. She was surrounded by gunmen and later paraded through Gaza.

Nissim and Ricarda Louk will bury their daughter on Sunday
Nissim and Ricarda Louk will bury their daughter on Sunday - REUTERS/Rami Amichay

On Friday, the Israeli military informed her parents, Nissim and Ricarda Louk, that their daughter’s body had been found by Israeli commandos in tunnels in Gaza.

Nissim Louk said that to be sure, he had viewed photos. “We also saw the tattoos on her hands,” he said on Saturday. “Now she will have her own place next to us and we can go there whenever we want. And she can rest.”

He said the funeral will be held on Sunday, which is Ricarda Louk’s birthday.

“I think Shani said ‘Let’s give my mother a birthday present and let’s go back and be close to her’,” he added.


10:06 AM BST

Saudi crown prince and US national security adviser meet on bilateral deal

The US’s national security adviser met early Sunday with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss what the kingdom described as the “semi-final” version of a wide-ranging security agreement between the countries.

The strategic deal had been upended afterHamas’ Oct 7 attack on Israel.

“The semi-final version of the draft strategic agreements between the kingdom and the United States of America, which are almost being finalised – and what is being worked on between the two sides in the Palestinian issue to find a credible path – were discussed,” the statement released after the talks said.

That included “a two-state solution that meets the aspirations and legitimate rights of the Palestinian people” and “the situation in Gaza and the need to stop the war there and facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid,” the statement added.


09:50 AM BST

Pictured: Aid arrives in Gaza

Palestinians carry boxes of humanitarian aid
Palestinians carry boxes of humanitarian aid - IMAGO/Ali Hamad\\ apaimages / Avalon
International aid arrives from the US-built Trident Pier
International aid arrives from the US-built Trident Pier - IMAGO/Ali Hamad\\ apaimages / Avalon
A woman receives a box of humanitarian aid near Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip
A woman receives a box of humanitarian aid near Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip - AFP

09:37 AM BST

Ultimatum raises pressure on Netanyahu to make postwar plans for Gaza

Benny Gantz has threatened to quit Israel’s emergency government if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not come up with a post-war plan within three weeks, Rozina Sabur reports.

Mr Gantz, an Israeli war cabinet minister, demanded that Mr Netanyahu commit to a plan for the war against Hamas in Gaza, including who might lead the beleaguered territory after the conflict ends.

In a televised news conference on Saturday night, Mr Gantz spelled out a six-point plan he wanted the cabinet to adopt.

Israel war cabinet member Benny Gantz meets hostage family members in November 2023
Israel war cabinet member Benny Gantz meets hostage family members in November 2023 - Itai Ron/Reuters

It includes the return of Israeli hostages, the end of Hamas’ rule, the demilitarisation of Gaza, a temporary international civilian administration for the territory backed by US, European and Arab nations, and efforts to normalise relations with Saudi Arabia.

It would also expand national service for all Israelis, including ultra-Orthodox Jews, who are currently exempt from the military draft and have two parties in Mr Netanyahu’s coalition.

Read more here


09:30 AM BST

Two Israeli soldiers killed in south Gaza, military says

Two Israeli soldiers were killed in a battle in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, the military said on Sunday.

Israel’s military has been focusing its offensive in the southern part of Gaza where it says the remaining Hamas brigades are holed up.

The military said 282 soldiers have been killed so far in the Gaza military campaign since the start of the ground offensive on October 27.


09:28 AM BST

UN says 800,000 Gazans have evacuated from Rafah

The United Nations says 800,000 Palestinians have been “forced to flee” Rafah amid Israel’s military operation in the southern Gaza city.

“800,000 people are on the road having been forced to flee since the Israeli forces started the military operation in the area on 6 May,” the UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini saidon X.

He added that people are fleeing to areas without water supplies or adequate sanitation.

Israel has said Rafah, where Hamas’s four intact battalions are deployed, remains a major stronghold for the terror group. It also believes that many of the remaining 124 hostages kidnapped in Hama Oct 7 attacks are being held in Rafah.

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