newsIsrael at War

Hostages’ families call for increased military pressure on Hamas

“We have to finish this war. We cannot let Hamas rise again in Gaza and because of that we must win,” said Tzvika Mor, co-founder of the Tikva Forum for Families of Hostages.

From left: Itzik Gvili, Tzvika Mor, Tali Gvili, Ditsa and Yaron Or at Hostage Square in Tel Aviv, April 3, 2024. Credit: Amelie Botbol.
From left: Itzik Gvili, Tzvika Mor, Tali Gvili, Ditsa and Yaron Or at Hostage Square in Tel Aviv, April 3, 2024. Credit: Amelie Botbol.

Relatives of Israelis being held captive by Hamas in Gaza on Wednesday called on the Israeli government to launch a military operation in Rafah to destroy Hamas and bring about the release of the hostages. 

“We have to finish this war. We cannot let Hamas rise again in Gaza and because of that we must win,” Tzvika Mor told JNS after a press conference at Hostage Square in Tel Aviv.

Tvika’s son Eitan, 23, was kidnapped from the Supernova music festival near Kibbutz Re’im on Oct. 7.

“We believe that the Israeli government is doing its best for us families of hostages. They want to release our loved ones. We trust them but we want to see the IDF defeat Hamas in Rafah,” added Mor, a co-founder of the Tikva Forum for Families of Hostages.

The group, an alternative to the larger Hostages and Missing Families Forum, has come out against the hostages’ families who joined forces over the weekend with anti-government protesters to push for the ouster of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu.

In a statement issued Saturday evening, the Tikva Forum said that “a significant number of abductees’ families are shocked by the political activity.”

Instead, members of the Forum gathered in Tel Aviv on Wednesday to share a message of unity.

“For three months, I have been hearing of a deal. The media make it sound like there really is a deal on the way, and the [Israel Security Agency] and everyone who is responsible for this chaos tell the prime minister that there is a deal on the way. I am telling you there is no deal,” said Yaron Or, whose son Avinatan was kidnapped from the Supernova festival along with his girlfriend Noa Argamani.

“Hamas has no plan to release anyone. We need to increase military pressure. I am calling on Prime Minister Netanyahu to enter Rafah, go to the Philadelphi Corridor [a buffer area running along the Egypt-Gaza border] and exhaust them until they fall to their knees and release everyone,” he added. 

His remarks echoed those of Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, who said on Wednesday that only through “stronger pressure” would a hostage release deal be achieved, adding, “and we will press harder, as much as necessary.”

“Another [Hamas] battalion dismantled, another commander killed, another infrastructure destroyed, this is the way to eventually pressure for the release of the hostages,” he said.

On Wednesday, Or said that the families who have joined the anti-government campaign “are being exploited for political motives and told that their actions could help close a deal.” Some of the protesters at one of the anti-government rallies had carried posters of his son, he said, adding, “Who gave them the permission to speak in my name? Who?”

Avinatan’s mother, Ditsa Or, reaffirmed at the event in Hostage Square that she would not support any deal that benefited Hamas. 

“Prime minister, for as long as you fight with all the military and spiritual power and the authentic and deep Israeli heroism, God will be on our side and will give us strength because we are fighting for what’s good and the truth,” she said. 

“When you do it as you should do it, we will get all our hostages back at once. Until then, we are not agreeing to any deal that is partial, in phases or that allows for any benefit to our enemies,” she added. 

Also attending the presser were the parents of Sgt. First Class Ran Gvili, a police officer who was on medical leave on Oct. 7 but joined the fight to repel Hamas’s terrorist invasion.

Gvili was abducted on Oct. 7 and declared dead on Jan. 31. His body is still being held by Hamas in Gaza. 

“We feel that we are back to Oct. 6, and I cannot watch people spit in the face of police officers who put their lives at risk to save everyone on Oct. 7,” Ran’s father, Itzik Gvili, told JNS. “Sixty-one police officers were killed” during the Hamas invasion, he added.

Itzik Gvili with a poster of his son Ran, a police officer kidnapped by Hamas on Oct. 7 and later declared dead, at Hostage Square in Tel Aviv, April 3, 2024. Credit: Amelie Botbol.

Gvili stressed the importance of Israeli unity, despite people holding contradictory views.

“My son went to fight for the country. Those who went to fight should be respected. They can’t spit on the families the way they do. I am not interested in the issue of supporting or not supporting Bibi. We must be united,” said Gvili. 

“We need to be together even if we disagree; we are one people. If we don’t rely on one another, we will be lying next to one another as we were on Oct. 7,” he added. 

Israeli officials from across the political spectrum on Wednesday criticized the previous night’s anti-government demonstration in Jerusalem, which featured protesters calling to “burn down the country” and attempting to storm the Prime Minister’s Residence.

Israel Security Agency chief Ronen Bar issued a rare warning, describing the incident as “beyond acceptable protest.”

Protesters and relatives of hostages later on Wednesday vandalized the windows of the gallery overlooking the Knesset Plenum Hall. (The color has become associated with the campaign to free the captives.)

Security personnel clashed with the demonstrators before escorting them off the premises.

Tsofit Libman, the daughter-in-law of Eliyahu Libman, one of the founders of the Tikva Forum and whose son Elyakim is being held by Hamas in Gaza, told JNS that early elections would harm the effort to free the captives.

“If there are elections, everyone will be busy campaigning and with politics and the hostage issue will be pushed aside,” said Libman.

“Beyond that, I am sure that when Hamas sees all the chaos [in Israel], it lifts up the morale of its members and is making them stronger, which by definition does not help the hostages,” she added. 

In an address to the nation on Sunday, Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected the idea of holding elections during the war, saying it would paralyze hostage negotiations and prevent the defeat of Hamas.

“The first who would welcome this is Hamas, and that says everything,” he said.

“I’m committed to bringing everyone back, all of our men and women, soldiers, civilians—I will not leave anyone behind. God willing, we will continue to work, continue to fight, and we will win together,” he said.

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