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County leaders ‘in shock’ over violence in Israel and Palestine, board chair says

The flags outside the Fairfax County Government Center flags are at half-staff after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack against Israel (via Fairfax County/Twitter)

Family members of a Fairfax native and Woodson High School graduate are among the 150 people reportedly taken hostage by the Palestinian militant group Hamas when it attacked Israel on Saturday (Oct. 7).

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay acknowledged the violence that has now gripped Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory of Gaza for four days to open today’s board meeting.

“All of us are in shock over what’s happening in the Middle East and the devastating violence that is occurring in Israel and Palestine, including a lot of kidnapping of family members,” McKay said. “[That includes] one of our own, W.T. Woodson graduate Abbey Onn, who’s lived in Israel since 2015, and we know that these attacks are affecting a lot of folks in our community.”

In media interviews, Onn has said that her cousins, ranging in age from 12 to 80, were taken from their home near the Gaza Strip on Saturday. She lost contact with them until the next day, when she saw her 12-year-old second cousin being held by militants in a video posted on Instagram.

Onn told WJLA that her plea for her relatives to be safely returned is “is not political, this is humanitarian.”

“These are people,” she told the TV news station. “These are someone’s grandmother, this is an 80-year-old woman and a 13-year-old girl with special needs, and children and parents.”

Described by an Israeli military official as “our 9/11,” Saturday’s assault by Hamas is the latest escalation in a century-old conflict that can be traced back to Britain’s assumption of control over former Ottoman Empire territories at the end of World War I.

At least 1,600 people have been killed between the initial attack and subsequent Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, where residents are cut off from food, fuel and medicine, according to the Associated Press. Both the Hamas attack on civilians and Israel’s retaliation against a population that it has blockaded since 2007 amount to war crimes, the Human Rights Watch says.

Fairfax County has lowered the flags outside the government center “to honor the lives lost in the terror attack committed against Israel.” The flags will remain lowered until sunset this coming Saturday (Oct. 14), the county government said.

“There are hundreds and hundreds of deaths that have already been reported as a result of this violence, and I want to keep our Middle Eastern friends and more importantly for us, the families and people connected to them in Fairfax County in our thoughts and prayers,” McKay said.