Canadian killed in Israel-Hamas war died trying to protect his girlfriend

A 21-year-old Israeli-Canadian was killed during the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas terrorists when he jumped on a live hand grenade to save the life of his girlfriend.Global Affairs Canada confirmed the death of Netta Epstein on Sunday, bringing to five the number of Canadians known to have been killed in the attacks. Officials say three other Canadians who were in Israel when the attacks happened last Saturday are still missing.

News of Epstein’s death was reported shortly after the attack by TC Jewfolk, a Minneapolis-St. Paul-based Jewish online media hub, which identified him as a former camper and counsellor in training at Herzl, a local Jewish summer camp.

Ayelet Shachar-Epstein, Netta’s mother, said her son was killed saving his girlfriend, Irene Shavit, when a grenade was thrown into the safe room at their apartment in the Kfar Aza kibbutz where they were taking refuge. He threw himself onto the grenade in order to save Irene, who was later rescued.

“He was a beautiful child with wide brown eyes and long curly hair,” Ayelet said. “He turned into a beautiful man with a huge heart; caring and giving to all his surroundings. He volunteered for a year with kids with special needs from broken homes. He would read to them and play soccer with them. They all loved him so much.”

“It’s really important that the world knows what we went through,” Shachar-Epstein told the broadcaster. “The people that live on our kibbutz are peace-loving people that hold their hands out for peace.”Shachar-Epstein was hiding in a different safe room at Kfar Aza during the attack, and was in touch with her son by text message until the end. Her own mother and two brothers-in-law were among the 70 killed at the kibbutz that day, it was reported. A nephew is missing.

Back in Canada, a petition at is calling for Epstein to be awarded the Cross of Valour, which recognizes “acts of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme peril.” The incident need not take place in Canada, but Canadian people and/or interests must be involved.

Julie Sunday, an assistant deputy minister for Global Affairs Canada, says the government is still working to get up to 300 Canadians and their relatives out of the Gaza Strip as Israel prepares an expected ground invasion.

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly confirmed on Monday that the first group of Canadians have crossed safely from the West Bank into neighbouring Jordan.The federal government says 21 Canadians, plus 10 people from Australia and New Zealand, took a bus out of the West Bank, a Palestinian territory that Israel has occupied since 1967 and where it has established numerous settlements.

Sunday put the number of Canadians seeking to leave the West Bank at 250.Other Canadians killed in the attacks include Ben Mizrachi, Alexandre Look and Shir Georgy, who were among the roughly 260 people killed at a music festival when gunmen opened fire; and Adi Vital-Kaploun, who was killed by her abductors after her community was attacked by Hamas terrorists.


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