A couple from Bridgend have spoken about their anxiety and grief as they wait for news about their son-in-law who is still held captive by Hamas – six months after a terror attack in which their daughter and two granddaughters were killed.

When Hamas launched a deadly attack on Israeli civilians on October 7, a day which claimed hundreds of lives and became the inciting point for a brutal and bloody war, Eli and Lianne Sharabi were at home with their two daughters Noiya, 16, and Yahel, 13, in Kibbutz Be’eri, an agricultural community of around 1,000 residents. Unbeknown to the family this was about to become the site of a brutal massacre in which Hamas militants stormed the kibbutz and killed more than 100 people, taking several more hostage.

Back in Bridgend Gillian and Pete Brisley switched on the TV. Alerted to what was happening in Israel Pete saw the scenes on the news and immediately messaged Lianne, 48, to ask if she was okay.

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There was no response. Six months on he now knows she had already been killed. Lianne was shot dead along with both of her daughters and the family’s pet dog. Her brother-in-law Yossi Sharabi was taken hostage and his death was later confirmed in a video published by Hamas.

When soldiers found Lianne’s body they saw she had been cuddling her two daughters in her final moments. Later her parents would hear of her final communication with any family member – speaking on the phone to her brother in Canada she said she could hear voices outside shouting “die, Israel” and that she had never been so scared in her life.

Noiya, Eli, Yahel, and Lianne Sharabi stand in a grassy field and smile for the camera
Eli Sharabi with his wife and two daughters, all three of whom were killed on October 7

But the Brisleys didn’t know any of this yet. They tried all day to contact their daughter, still not knowing her fate, but it took two days after October 7 for confirmation that Lianne had died then a further three for Yahel and another five for Noya.

“That first 10 days or so was horrendous,” Gillian said. “There were articles being posted saying people were dead, missing, kidnapped – all contradictory. Until we had the official confirmation via Interpol we just didn’t know what to think. It was absolutely horrendous.”

When the news arrived the pill was no easier to swallow. “They should have been burying us, not them,” said Pete. “It was terrible.”

Already mourning the loss of their daughter and grandchildren the Brisleys, both 79, are still waiting anxiously for news about their much-loved son-in-law Eli who is one of 254 people taken hostage in the attacks. “We have to hope,” said Gillian. “We have nothing else. Despite what we know about the circumstances surrounding our girls’ death the only person who can tell us is Eli. We don’t know whether he saw his family being slaughtered, we don’t know if he was taken outside [first], or if he was injured. We have nothing at all.”

As the six-month mark since the attacks passes – an arbitrary number for a family waiting this long with next to no information – Gillian sounds at her happiest when she remembers her daughter and granddaughters. Lianne met Eli on a three-month volunteering trip and extended her stay as she built a life with him. The two married in Bristol, where Lianne’s family originally hail from, in 2000 and their daughters were born and raised in Israel.

“Lianne was a dental nurse on the kibbutz,” said Gillian. “She was a talented musician and played the clarinet, the saxophone, and the piano. She used to sing and whenever there were any concerts or celebrations on the kibbutz she would be asked to perform.

“Noiya was born in 2007 and she was a lovely girl, very compassionate. She used to volunteer at a school for special needs children and loved it. She’d sing and she’d dance and she’d look after Yahel whether Yahel wanted her to or not.

“Yahel was a bundle of energy. She wouldn’t sit still. She never walked anywhere – she always ran. She loved adventure and did a skydive, a scuba diving course, ziplining through the jungle – anything that was exciting and got her really going, that was Yahel. She was also a brilliant mathematician.”

Lianne and her daughters in an old photo, smiling and looking towards camera
Lianne and her daughters were found cuddled together in their home

Gillian and Pete, neither of them Jewish, Israeli, or Hebrew speakers, have made two trips to Israel since the attacks. On the first they went to the Dead Sea where Be’eri survivors are being housed.

Having been to see their family in Israel at least once a year since 1995 the couple made firm friends there – and lost many of them in the attacks. After attending a remembrance ceremony, visiting the graves of their three girls, seeing friends and hearing survivors’ stories, Gillian went to visit the house where her daughter and granddaughters were killed.

“As I walked through the door it was dirty and ransacked with bullet holes all over the place,” she said. “The main thing is that it was cold. There was none of the warm, comforting feeling you get when you walk into a family home. I didn’t feel them there.”

On their second visit the couple travelled to Israel for what would have been Lianne’s 49th birthday. Then they decided to spend time cleaning the house – clearing masses of smashed glass where windows, TVs, and shower doors had been mindlessly shot.

“Part of it was an emotional thing,” Pete said of the clean-up. “It just made us feel better. If Eli comes home whether he’ll want to go to the house we don’t know but at least it’s tidy now for him.”

They visited Lianne’s grave with her best friend Natasha and also Tom Hand, a family friend who until recently feared his young daughter Emily had been killed in the attacks. “Lianne liked to drink beer so we took a parcel of beer and stood around the grave," said Pete. "We actually poured some on the grave for Lianne – it sounds stupid but that’s what we did.”

Three coffins draped in the Israeli flag as mourners look on, visibly upset
Mourners at the funeral of Lianne Sharabi and her two girls

Gillian and Pete were invited to meet the president of Israel, Isaac Herzog, and ended up spending nearly an hour with him in his offices. “At that time we mentioned what a great help the Jewish community of Wales had been,” Pete added. “We’ve had them come to our house and they’ve just been lovely.”

Gillian also wanted to pay tribute to her and Pete’s son Stephen, who has spent the months since October 7 flitting between Bridgend and London speaking to anybody who will listen – politicians from any party and foreign secretary David Cameron himself. “He’s met all sorts of people from the government,” said Gillian. “Anybody that he possibly thinks could have some influence or keep the names of Eli and the other hostages in the forefront, that’s what he’s been doing – sometimes to the detriment of his own health.”

In the hope that Eli is still alive Gillian said her message to him would be: “We’re thinking of you, we love you, we can’t wait to see you. We hope you’re bearing up. We don’t know what state you’re in but you’re a strong man.”