newsOctober 7

Captives’ loved ones plead for their release at Tel Aviv rally

"I came here to demand from the government to do more," hostage's uncle tells JNS.

The family of Hamas captive Itay Svirsky stand at "Hostage Square" in Tel Aviv, Jan. 14, 2024. Photo by Amelie Botbol.
The family of Hamas captive Itay Svirsky stand at "Hostage Square" in Tel Aviv, Jan. 14, 2024. Photo by Amelie Botbol.

As Israel marked 100 days of captivity for hostages held in Gaza on Sunday, Hamas released a 37-second propaganda video featuring detainees Noa Argamani, Itay Svirsky and Yossi Sharabi. 

In the undated video, all three hostages identify themselves and ask the Israeli government to end their ordeal and bring them home. Noises mimicking explosions can be heard in the background. 

The video ends with the caption: “Tomorrow we will inform you of their fate.”

The clip was released after Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida claimed on Sunday that many of the hostages were killed in Israeli strikes and that the group has lost track of many others.

On the same day, JNS met with Svirsky’s uncle Amnon Bendavid, 74, from Ramat Gan, who had gathered with other members of the family at “Hostage Square,” near the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, to commemorate 100 days of Itay’s captivity and call for the release of all those held by Hamas in Gaza.

“I feel very sad and frustrated. I came here to demand from the government to do more and to support us, the families of hostages. We should not feel that we are alone. I have very limited hopes,” Bendavid said.

On Friday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that a deal spearheaded by Mossad director David Barnea had been made to allow medicine to be transferred to the hostages. 

“Until I see the Red Cross giving medication to each hostage, I will keep doubting that it is ever going to happen and will not feel any more comfortable than I do,” Bendavid said. 

Svirsky, 38, was visiting his parents, Orit and Rafi, at Kibbutz Be’eri on Oct. 7 when Hamas invaded the northwestern Negev, killing around 1,200 persons, wounding thousands of others and destroying Israeli towns and villages.

Itay’s parents were murdered while he was one of some 240 Israelis and foreign nationals who were abducted into Gaza.

“While I appreciate everyone gathered today, this is not enough. We should be at least one million here demanding the release of all the hostages,” Bendavid said.

JNS also spoke with Harel Sharabi, 17, from Tel Menashe, whose two uncles Eli Sharabi, 51, and Yossi Sharabi, 53, were kidnapped on Oct. 7, and whose uncle Yossi featured in Hamas’s video.

“It’s hard to realize that today marks 100 days. We do everything we can and it seems that nothing is happening. We expect more. I understand that everyone is committed to do the right thing but it’s not enough,” Harel Sharabi said. 

On Oct. 7, Hamas broke into Eli Sharabi’s house in Be’eri, shot the dog, captured the family from their safe room and set the home on fire. Eli’s wife, Lianne, and their daughters Yahel, 13, and Noiya, 16, were murdered while he was kidnapped into Gaza. 

Yossi’s family survived the assault in Be’eri; he was taken hostage together with Ofir Engel, 18, who was spending the Simchat Torah holiday with the family.

Engel was one of 110 hostages released as part of a week-long truce between Israel and Hamas while Yossi and another 135 hostages remain in Gaza.

“Without the people that are here today [in “Hostage Square”] we would not have been able to go on. To see that the Israel people support us really gives us a lot of hope,” Harel Sharabi told JNS.

Harel Sharabi holds a poster depicting her uncles Eli and Yossi Sharabi, near “Hostage Square” in Tel Aviv, Jan. 14, 2024. Photo by Amelie Botbol. 

‘Before my last day’

Last month, the plight of Noa Argamani, the only woman to appear in Hamas’s video, came under the national spotlight after her mother, Liora, who has advanced-stage brain cancer, recorded a video pleading for the international community to push for her release.

On Sunday, Liora Argamani addressed the crowd at the 24-hour rally in “Hostage Square.”

“I am Liora Argamani, mother of Noa who was kidnapped on Oct. 7 [from the Supernova music festival near Kibbutz Re’im] along with her boyfriend Avinatan [Or]. Noa has been held captive by Hamas for 100 days now and I don’t understand how this can be, how she is still there,” Liora Argamani told an audience of thousands of Israelis.

“I want to thank the people of Israel, your help warms my heart. Thank you, I love you all very much. I hope to get to see her before my last day,” she said.

Noa Argamani was filmed by Hamas terrorists being taken into Gaza. She is seen screaming, “Don’t kill me! No, no, no,” as she is taken away on a motorcycle by Hamas terrorists, while her boyfriend, Avinatan, is pushed around by gunmen with his hands tied behind his back.

Netanyahu on Saturday reiterated his vow to continue fighting until Hamas is defeated.

“Today, we mark 100 days of the war, 100 days since the terrible day on which our citizens were massacred and taken hostage. We are continuing the war until the end—until total victory, until we achieve all of our goals: eliminating Hamas, returning all of our hostages and ensuring that Gaza will never again constitute a threat to Israel,” he said.

U.S. President Joe Biden also released a statement on Sunday noting that six Americans marked their 100th day in captivity.

“No one should have to endure even one day of what they have gone through, much less 100,” Biden said. “On this terrible day, I again reaffirm my pledge to all the hostages and their families—we are with you. We will never stop working to bring Americans home.”

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