Nearly a week after Hamas terrorists attacked Israel, setting off a war as Israel retaliated with airstrikes over the Gaza Strip, the death toll continues to rise above 1,000. Of the victims, 27 have been identified as U.S. citizens.
Among them was a mother protecting her son, an American Israeli soldier, an idealist daughter and a young man who had recently moved to Salt Lake City, where he was active in the Jewish community.
The White House confirmed the number of American deaths Thursday.
Deborah Martias, who was born in Missouri, was described by her father as an idealist who wanted to help improve relations between Arabs and Jews. He said she died protecting her son.
Martias’ father, Ilan Troen, a professor at Brandeis University in Israel, said that when they spoke on the phone for the last time, she told him she heard glass breaking, people speaking in Arabic and gunshots.
“That’s the last words we heard from her,” Troen told MSNBC's Jose Diaz Balart in an interview this week.
Troen said his daughter’s last act was to defend her son, who was also shot but survived. Troen did not give the son's age.
Troen said Martias was an idealist who sent her kids to a school where they learned Arabic and Hebrew in the hope that Jews and Arabs would come to understand each other, accommodate and change the course of history.
Katsman, who would have celebrated his 32nd birthday this week, was killed near the border of Gaza after militants forced their way into his home, family members said.
Hannah Wacholder Katsman, his mother, told NBC affiliate WLWT of Cincinnati, her hometown, that her son was hiding in a closet with a neighbor woman when they were attacked.
“When they came to his house, they found them, and the woman survived," Wacholder Katsman told the station. "The woman they released, and Hayim they shot immediately.”
She said Hayim was kind and smart but "had a tough core."
“He was very tough and very industrious,” Wacholder Katsman told the station.
She said Hayim joined the Army after high school, serving in field intelligence. He studied political science at The Open University before he earned a master’s degree in political science from Ben Gurion University in Be’er-Sheva, Israel.
Hayim received his doctorate from the University of Washington.
A longtime nurse and mother of four, Neta, 66, grew up in California before she moved to Israel decades ago, her son told MSNBC.
Neta, the daughter of an Air Force engineer, moved to Israel in 1981 and devoted her life to helping and caring for others as a nurse in the Regional Hospital in the Negev desert, her son Nahar Neta said.
Nahar Neta thought his mother would find a way to stay alive through the war.
“She’s a tough lady," he said. "She’s been through a lot in her life. You know, coming from being a young California hippie and coming to the Negev in the early '80s was not an easy, not an easy move.”
His family has confirmed her death.
Nahar Neta said the last time he talked to his mother was on a group phone call with her and his siblings. He said he tried to calm her down when she heard gunfire.
“I heard my sister screaming and crying on the phone,” he said, adding his brother told him Hamas terrorists had barged into the shelter in his mother’s home.
The phone disconnected, and that was the last contact he had with her.
Lotan Abir, 24, a member of the Young Jewish Professional community in Utah, was killed in an attack at the Tribe of Nova music festival, Rabbi Avremi Zippel of Chabad Lubavitch of Utah announced on X.
Abir moved to Utah last year after having completed military service in Israel, Zippel said. It was unclear why he was in Israel at the time of the attack.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, wrote on X: “News of the loss of one of our own from Utah further tears at our collective heart. I offer my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Lotan Abir — may he rest in peace.”
Family members said they will always remember Daniel Ben-Senior as someone who loved giving back through her work.
Ben-Senior, 34, a nurse, was heading to the Tribe of Nova music festival when she was killed, according to her cousin, Ran Ben-Senior, who lives in New York.
“She had a big heart and a big smile and always tried to help,” he said, adding that he will always think back on his cousin as a caring nurse in Israel. “It’s really tough for us.”