'My life stopped on October 7': British mother awaits news of her Hamas-abducted family

Speaking to ITV News, Ayelet Svatitzky became emotional at the thought of having to tell her abducted mother that her eldest son, Roi, is dead.

By Kieran Carter, ITV News Assistant News Editor

A British mother-of-three has told of the pain she's endured waiting for the release of her brother and elderly mother after they were abducted during Hamas' October 7 incursion into Israel.

At the Israeli Embassy on October 24, calling for the release of her family from the terrorists that took them, Ayelet Svatitzky was asked what day it was - it was a Tuesday, but she had answered: "It's day 18. My life stopped on October 7."

She was at her house, around one hour north of Tel Aviv, with her husband on the day Hamas terrorists crossed the border from Gaza to Israel, killing more than 1,400 individuals and taking over 200 hostages in the process.

One month on, her 79-year-old mother, Channah Peri, and her brother, 51-year-old Nadav Popplewell - who, like Ayelet, are also British citizens - remain missing. Her brother, Roi, was killed in the October 7 attack.

Channah Peri, 79, and Nadav Popplewell, 54, remain missing. Credit: Family handout

Ayelet describes what happened on that day as "a nightmare".

"I called my mum early in the morning when I heard there was a terrorist attack, not only missiles - which they’re unfortunately used to - but also an actual ground attack," she said.

"I told her to lock herself in the saferoom, not open the door, don’t answer anybody."

It wasn't until later that Ayelet learned the saferooms in many Kibbutz houses, designed to protect from missiles and explosions, couldn’t be locked from the inside.

The thought of a ground invasion by Hamas was something no-one had prepared for.

For the next few hours, Ayelet assumed her family were dead, killed in the terrorist attack.

But a day later, the first news of Hamas taking hostages back to Gaza reached her. The news came with two photos, sent from her mother’s phone, accompanied by the word "Hamas".

'The guilt when I eat... Are they eating?' Ayelet says many Israeli families have been dealing with the same emotions

"Hamas sent me two pictures of my mum and my brother sitting in our living room. So what if this was proof of life?

"I don’t know what’s the better option, being killed or being taken hostage by Hamas?

"It’s like a nightmare, but you can't wake up because it's not really a nightmare, it's reality.

"The guilt when I eat, I can't stop thinking about my mum and my brother," Ayelet said to ITV News.

"Are they eating? What are they eating? They both have diabetes so medication’s important, but also nutrition.

"Sleep. I get to sleep in my own bed. My mum doesn't. My brother doesn't."

As well as worrying about her mother and brother, Ayelet is also grieving for her older brother Roi, 54, who was killed during the initial Hamas attack.

"I don't know if my mum and Nadav know of Roi’s murder," she explained.

"So if they don't know, when they come I’ll need to be the one to tell my mum she lost her eldest and Nadav, we lost a brother. So it's up to me to get them released... and then it would be up to me to tell them that we lost Roi.

"I try not to deal with the loss of my brother at the moment because I find it too painful and if I start thinking about that it’ll break me. I don’t have the privilege of breaking.

"When my mum and my brother come back, I want them to know I’ve done everything in my power.

"I want to live my life going forward being able to tell myself that I’ve done everything I possibly can. I just hope she knows, and my brother, how much I love them."

Twenty-one days after Roi’s murder, his body was formally identified and laid to rest on October 27.

For Ayelet, the campaign to bring her family and the families of so many others home continues.

"My life is dental records and DNA testing. I’m 46 years old and this is my life. How did this happen to us?"

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