As Israel resumed its airstrikes on Gaza on Friday, following a weeklong pause, the families of the Israelis still held hostage by Hamas are urging their government to reach a deal with the militant group to secure their release. According to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), about 140 Israelis, mostly men, are being held captive in Gaza, after being abducted by Hamas during the 7 October attacks on southern Israel. Some of them are alive and some are presumed dead, the IDF said.
The families of the hostages have formed a coalition, called “Bring Them Home”, to pressure the Israeli government and the international community to negotiate with Hamas and to exchange Palestinian prisoners for the Israeli hostages. The coalition has launched a campaign on social media, using the hashtag #BringThemHome, and has organized rallies and vigils across Israel. The coalition has also appealed to the UN, the US, the EU and other countries to intervene and to help end the hostage crisis.
The families of the hostages say they are living in agony and uncertainty, not knowing the fate or the condition of their loved ones. They say they have received little information or support from the Israeli authorities, and that they fear that their relatives may be tortured, killed or used as human shields by Hamas. They say they are also worried that the renewed fighting between Israel and Hamas may jeopardize the chances of a peaceful resolution of the conflict, and may endanger the lives of the hostages and the civilians in Gaza.
Not Interested in Political Games
The families of the hostages say they are not interested in politics or revenge, but only in the safe return of their relatives. They say they are willing to accept any deal that would bring them back, even if it means releasing hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, some of whom may have been involved in terrorist attacks against Israel. They say they are inspired by the example of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who was held hostage by Hamas for five years, and was freed in 2011 in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.
The families of the hostages say they are not alone in their struggle, and that they have received solidarity and sympathy from many Israelis and people around the world. They say they have also received messages of support from some Palestinians, who have expressed their sorrow and their hope for peace. They say they believe that the majority of the people on both sides want to end the cycle of violence and suffering, and to achieve a just and lasting solution that would ensure the security of Israel and the dignity of the Palestinians.