'I can't think about the brother I lost yet, my father is missing': Family destroyed by Hamas attack

Lior Peri's (centre) father Chaim (left) is a Hamas-held hostage, while his brother Danny Darlington (right) was killed. Credit: Family handout

By Rhiannon Hopley, ITV News Deputy News Editor

In Kibbutz Nir Oz, the worst-hit area of Hamas' attack, one in four residents are believed to have been kidnapped or killed.

Two of those executed were Danny Darlington, a 34-year-old born in Manchester, and his German friend Caroline Bohl, who were visiting the Kibbutz.

Danny was meant to have left the previous evening to visit his older brother, Lior Peri, in Tel Aviv but decided to stay another night – a decision which would prove fatal.

In the morning, he messaged Lior to say something was happening at the Kibbutz.  

“They were both tourists. I don’t know if they grasped exactly what happened and what was going on," Lior tells ITV News. "He text me to say there’s a big mess in the Kibbutz but that was it."

Danny Darlington and Carolin Bohl pictured together before their deaths. Credit: Family handout

"It’s difficult to explain to my daughters – they loved their Uncle Danny – the cool British guy who used to come to visit. How do you explain to them he is dead?"

Lior describes his brother as a free spirit who loves travelling and exploring. He then pauses as he realises he is still referring to Danny in the present tense.

“I am not in mourning yet," he adds.

"My father, Chaim, is missing and I have an important job to do – to bring him home. I haven’t been able to stop and think about the brother I lost yet."

On the other side of the Kibbutz to Danny, Lior’s father Chaim and his wife Osnat had been hiding in their house.

Lior Peri with his father Chaim. Credit: Family handout

There were no locks on the safe room, which was built to protect from aerial threats, not a ground attack.

Chaim hid his wife in a space between the sofa and a wall, then walked outside to willingly give himself up. It worked and the Hamas fighters never found Osnat.

Lior says his family have had very little contact with the Israeli government. Initially they were not even sure if Chaim had been killed or abducted.

It was returning hostage Yochaved Lifshitz, from the same Kibbutz, who recognised Chaim during her captivity and told the family he was alive and well.

Lior explains the news has been bittersweet for the family: “It’s a different tragedy now.

Chaim (left) gave himself up while Osnat (right) hid in order to protect her - it worked. Credit: Family handout

"So, my father is alive and well. But now it means my father’s life is in the hands of the Israeli government who I’m not sure are capable of freeing him from captivity."

Lior describes his father as a popular and likeable man with many passions. He founded an art gallery called the White House Gallery in an abandoned building in the fields, letting artists from all over the country display their work there. The family believe it is one of the few buildings left untouched by Hamas.  

Chaim’s other passion is wine. Lior says his father insisted on planting grapes in an area where no one thought they would grow.

"I didn’t believe he could do it, but he did. He makes 600 bottles of wine a year and it’s delicious. He brings it with him to every event."

Chaim photographed at the White House Gallery. Credit: Family handout

But it is his peace work that Chaim is most well-known for. After being conscripted into the army during his youth and witnessing war, he became a peace activist, attending rallies, helping political campaigns, and volunteering for a charity which drives sick Palestinians across the border for treatment in Israel.

"He saw the atrocities of war first-hand and became a peace activist because he understood that war could never be the solution," his son says.

"And that is my father: a man of art, and wine, and peace."

Lior says he feels betrayed by a government who was supposed to keep his family safe.

Chaim pictured with one of his granddaughters. Credit: Family handout

He is worried about what happens next. “The government say there are two parallel aims to their operation – bringing hostages home and bringing Hamas down. But we hear less and less about hostage negotiations now. I don’t feel hostages are their priority.

"They say ‘Hamas will feel our rage.’ Is that the aim of the army operation?

"They say everything is under control, but it is hard for me to trust them.” 

“It’s always the civilians who pay the price. On our side and their side. I want the bombing to stop from both sides. Of course, that’s my childish hope.

"We don’t need to answer death with more death. This should be a wake-up call for a peaceful solution."

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