For Bipin Joshi's family in Bhasi – situated in far-western Nepal's Kanchanpur district – time seems to have come to a standstill. After all, it has been almost a week since they last heard from him.
Bipin has been missing since Hamas militants attacked Israel last week on Saturday, 7 October.
"With each passing day, our hope that our son is alive is diminishing. It's only causing more agony," his mother Padma Joshi tells The Quint.
Bipin had arrived in Israel two months ago – and was among the 49 agriculture undergraduate students from Sudurpaschim University in Nepal's Tikapur selected for the Israel government's 'learn and earn' programme.
Bipin was living in Alumim kibbutz (farm) in southern Israel, close to the Gaza Strip. There were at least 16 other Nepalese students there with him, according to the foreign ministry of Nepal.
On Friday, 6 October, hours before the attack, Bipin had a chat with his cousin Ishwar Joshi over the phone.
"Bipin told us that a notice had been issued to hide in a bunker because an attack might take place. Alumim was being attacked with bullets and bombs then. We have not heard from him at all after that day. There has been radio silence."Ishwar Joshi
Ishwar said that Bipin's sister Pushpa then received a message from a wounded Nepalese student, who hails from Kailali district in Nepal, alleging that Bipin had been kidnapped during the attack.
"A search operation continues for Bipin Joshi who has gone missing following the attack. We will share the information as soon as we get additional information on this," Nepal Foreign Minister NP Saud told the local media on Friday, 13 October.
'What Do I Have To Live For?'
As Bipin's family hopes against hope for his safety – no hope is left for the families of those who lost their children in the attack.
At least 10 Nepalese students were killed in Israel in the recent attack. According to The Kathmandu Post, it is the highest number of Nepalese casualties on foreign soil in militant attacks since 2016 – when 14 Nepalese citizens were killed in a suicide attack by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
All 10 belong to the group of 17 students who were in Israel under the Israeli government's 'learn and earn' programme. Like Bipin, Ashish Chaudhary, too, was assigned to Alumim kibbutz.
Ashish, a 25-year-old student, had moved to Israel last month. His parents live and work in Bengaluru, and he was brought up by his 70-year-old grandfather Kanaiyalal in a village in Nepal's Kailali district.
"I used to live for Ashish and he used to live for me. I brought him up single-handedly since his childhood. Now that he is gone, what meaning is there to my life?"Kanaiyalal Chaudhary
Kanaiyalal's wife had died earlier. He lived with Ashish and his paralysed daughter before Ashish went to Israel.
"The day he was leaving, he had called me from the Tribhuvan International Airport [in Kathmandu] before boarding. He couldn't contain his excitement..." Kanaiyalal tells The Quint.
According to The Nepali Times, the Nepalese students first survived a Hamas grenade attack on a bunker. They then sought shelter in another bunker nearby, along with 20 Thai workers. However, that bunker too came under attack by Hamas militants.
Ashish was killed on the spot along with five other Nepalese students. The militants allegedly took away seven Thais along with Bipin.
Four others were injured, and two reported to be safe, according to Nepal's Embassy in Israel.
'Saw His Name in the List of Deceased'
For Ganesh Nepali's family, October has been a month of misfortunes.
On 3 October, their home in Chainpur in Bajhang district of western Nepal developed cracks after an earthquake struck the region. A few days later, they found out that their son was among those killed in Israel.
Ganesh last called his family on 6 October. His brother Vikas told Nepalese news outlet Kantipur:
"Our family house had suffered cracks due to the earthquake last week. For the first two nights after the earthquake, we built a temporary structure out of tarpaulin close to the center of the village. But then, we returned home despite the risks because we couldn't continue living like that. My brother had called my parents out of concern for us after the earthquake. That was the last we heard from him."
Ganesh's brother added that on Saturday evening, he saw news of Israel being attacked. "We tried video calling him, but there was no response. Later in the evening, I saw my brother's name of the list of deceased Nepalese nationals."
Born into a poor Dalit family, Ganesh was a meritorious student and had an easygoing nature, according to Kantipur. Ganesh's father – a tailor by profession – had taken loans to educate him.
The families now wait for the mortal remains of their loved ones to reach them.
An Israeli diplomat told The Kathmandu Post said that it may take a few days before the mortal remains of the deceased students are sent back to Nepal.
The country has prioritised repatriating the dead, besides moving Nepalese living in risky zones to safer locations, according to the newspaper. "It will take a few more days as they [Israeli authorities] are still identifying the bodies," Israeli ambassador to Nepal Hanan Goder told The Kathmandu Post.
"We have more than 900 bodies that have yet to be identified," he added.