Twelve hours after gunmen stormed the Chabad headquarters in Mumbai as part of a widespread attack throughout the city, Sandra Samuel heard the cries of a small child outside the room in which she had barricaded herself.
She opened the door, grabbed a 2-year-old old boy and ran outside with another center worker. They are the only ones to have emerged from the house.
"I took the child, I just grabbed the baby and ran out, said Samuel, 44, who has worked as a cook for the center for the last five years.
The boy, whom she identified as Moshe Holtzberg, the son of Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg, was unharmed - but his blood-soaked pants spoke of the horrors inside. Holzberg is the main representative at Chabad house.
Samuel, who was looking after the boy at a nearby police station, said that as she ran out, she saw four people lying on the floor, apparently unconscious.
Chabad spokesman Moni Ender in Israel said there were eight Israelis inside the house, including Rabbi Holtzberg and his wife.
Dozens of Indian commandoes have surrounded the five-story building, where heavy curtains hung behind windows broken by gunfire. Outside the center, thousands of people stood in the narrow alleyways watching the standoff.
Rabbi Zalman Shmotkin, a spokesman for the Lubavitch movement in New York, said the gunmen seized a police vehicle, which allowed them access to the area around the Chabad house, which serves as an educational center, a synagogue and offers drug prevention services.
Samuel said she and Zakir Hussein, 22, the center's caretaker, locked themselves in their first floor room when they saw a gunman running up the stairs.
"Israelis and Jews, wherever they are, are under threat," said Ehud Raz, chief security officer at the Israeli consulate in Mumbai. "They are a target."
"Neighbors had tried to protect the house as armed gunmen seized it Wednesday night. They clashed with the gunmen and throwing rocks at them in an effort to drive the militants away," said Puran Doshi, a businessman who lives nearby.
"The crowd eventually retreated under fire from the assailants, who also threw several hand grenades," he said.
"They shot indiscriminately into the crowd," Doshi said.
Sanjay Bhasme, 40, who lives in the building behind Chabad house, said he notified the police after the shooting began about 9:45 p.m., but they took more than 30 minutes to arrive - and only after he'd repeatedly telephoned for help.
"My mind is on pause," said Joel Kurulkar, 24, a member of Mumbai's small Jewish community who was waiting outside. "I just want Rabbi to be safe, I just want the Rabbi and his wife to come out."
'Pray for our family hostage in Mumbai,' Afula family urges
Anxiously awaiting news of their daughter's fate in Mumbai, the Rosenberg family was ensconced in prayer at their home in Afula on Thursday. Rivki, 28, and her husband, Gavriel Holtzberg, 30, a Chabad emissary in Mumbai, are one of a number of Israelis being held hostage by armed terrorists who have stormed into the Chabad house in the city.
The family has received reports indicating that the terrorists have released their two-year-old son, Moshe Tzvi, and their caretaker. Rivki's father, Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg, said the family has been stationed in India these last five years as Chabad representatives. Prior to their Mumbai posting, they had spent time in Thailand.
"We speak with them every day and [Wednesday] morning was no different," the rabbi said. "Everything was alright. In the evening, I gave a lesson in Kabbala and just after 9:00 P.M. I got a call tellng us to listen to news of terrorists attacking in Mumbai. We tried to get in touch but all the systems went down and later we heard that the terrorists stormed the building and they were being held hostage."
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now