Consulate: Unspecified number of Israelis missing in Mumbai

Foreign Ministry confirms eight Israelis killed in India terror attacks, though only 5 names released; commandos continue to comb hotels.

Holtzbergs 248.88  (photo credit: AP)
Holtzbergs 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
An unspecified number of Israelis in Mumbai remain unaccounted for, an official from the Israeli Consulate in the terror-stricken Indian city told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday. Speaking by phone from the Consulate just after the end of Shabbat in Mumbai, Haim Hoshen, the Foreign Ministry's Head of the Asia and South Asia Department, said he preferred not to discuss the exact number of missing Israelis. "We have a list from Israel of names of people who still haven't made contact with their families. I'd prefer not to discuss the exact number at this stage," Hoshen said. "What is certain is that the whereabouts of some of these people remain unknown." Hoshen spoke hours after the Foreign Ministry confirmed that eight bodies were recovered from Mumbai's Chabad House, following an Indian helicopter rooftop commando raid which lasted for several hours. The deceased included Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, 29, and his wife, Rivka, 28, who ran the Chabad House, which was one of 10 sites attacked. A Chabad-Lubavitch spokesman, Rabbi Zalman Schmotkin, identified two other victims as Bentzion Chroman, an Israeli with dual US citizenship, and Rabbi Leibish Teitlebaum, an American from Brooklyn who lived in Jerusalem. Authorities announced the name of a fourth Israeli victim, 60-year-old Yohevet Orpaz, after her family identified her body on Saturday afternoon. Orpaz was killed along with eight others at the Chabad House. The Foreign Ministry said that seven of the nine bodies found in the building have been identified as Israelis. According to Israel's ambassador to India, Mark Sofer, three Israelis had yet to be identified. Indian commandos were still combing the floors of Nariman House for other casualties. Hoshen said six members of Israel's Burial Society (ZAKA) had arrived to help identify the bodies. "We are continuing to deal with all of the sorrowful events here," he said. "We will soon go and meet a victim's family in order to officially inform them of the death of their loved ones." Hoshen refrained from indicating how many bodies had been identified by Saturday evening. The Consulate was also working closely with Indian authorities to ensure a swift transfer of the bodies to Israel for burial, Hoshen said. Hoshen said there was no doubt that the Chabad House was the target of a premeditated and planned assault, adding that security had been stepped up around the Consulate. "We are very aware [of the heightened danger]. As you can imagine, all of the necessary preparations have been made," he said. Chabad activists who had arrived in Mumbai and who held a Shabbat meal for the remaining Jews in the city, including the parents of Rivka Holtzberg, Rabbi Shimon Rozenberg and his wife Yehudit, have been advised by Indian police not to disclose their movements. In an interview for the Chabad Website held minutes before the entrance of Shabbat in Mumbai, Chabad Rabbi Dov-Be'er Goldberg said he was hosting the Rozenbergs and two Israeli nationals who had survived a hostage ordeal at the Oberoi Trident hotel. "We have received instructions from the Indian police and Embassy staff not to discuss our location, since the Chabad House is now a terror target," Goldberg said. The IDF attache to India, who arrived in Mumbai from New Delhi, is liaising between the Indian military and the Israeli Consulate, keeping Israeli diplomatic staff updated on the latest developments, Hoshen said. "We have gone to hospitals to check for Israelis, and thank God, we haven't found anything at this stage," he added on Friday. Hoshen was staying at the Oberoi Hotel when the building came under attack, and described hearing a number of explosions go off around him as he attended a reception. He evacuated the area leaving all of his belongings in the hotel. The staff of the Israeli consulate in Mumbai has been working "24 hours a day" since the crisis began, Hoshen said. "We managed to catch a couple of hours of sleep last night," he said. AP contributed to this report.