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Hostages’ families: Suspend Gaza aid until captives released

“If we continue to feed the lion, what's the reason for it to stop,” said protest organizer Shai Wenkert, whose 22-year-old son was abducted by Hamas on Oct. 7.

Trucks delivering humanitarian aid enter Gaza at Egypt's Rafah crossing, Nov. 25, 2023. Source: IDF Screenshot
Trucks delivering humanitarian aid enter Gaza at Egypt's Rafah crossing, Nov. 25, 2023. Source: IDF Screenshot

The families of 132 Israeli hostages being held by Hamas on Tuesday held a protest march in an attempt to disrupt the transfer of aid to Gaza, calling on Israel to halt the flow of aid until their loved ones are freed.

“What do we get in return? We think that if we’re talking humanitarian [matters], this aid should be in exchange for our hostages,” said Carmit Itzhaki, whose niece Eden Yerushalmi, 24, was abducted from the Supernova music festival on Oct. 7.

“Hamas was under pressure to bring in supplies and therefore went along with the hostages’ release,” said Itzhaki, referring to November’s hostages-for-ceasefire agreement. “But now that they receive supplies without a problem, what interest do they have in returning the rest of them?”

Itzhaki said the family hasn’t received any information on Eden since Oct. 7. In Eden’s last phone call, she simply cried out to her sister Shani, “They got me.”

None of the 121 hostages released during November’s ceasefire can recall seeing Eden at any point.

“I want my niece here by my side, I don’t want her on a poster or on a T-shirt,” said Carmit.

“The Red Cross says they cannot enter Gaza to see the hostages because Hamas won’t let them and so on. But it all sounds like excuses, I think they have to be there for our hostages but not enough is done,” she added.

The procession of families tried to march from Kibbutz Magen to Kerem Shalom, but since the war began civilian access to this area has been restricted. Residents of the nearby towns and agricultural communities were evacuated and police blocked the marchers’ path.

“We will continue with these efforts—we will stop anything that prevents the release of our loved ones,” said protest organizer Shai Wenkert. His 22-year-old son Omer was also abducted from the music festival.

“The trucks of humanitarian equipment continue to enter Gaza for a long time, and at this time. My son has colitis and is in captivity and does not receive any humanitarian aid,” said Shai. “We do not have any current information about his condition. How can it go on like this? I couldn’t stand it anymore.”

Colitis is an intestinal disorder typically managed by medication— medication which Omer does not have access to in Gaza, Shai noted. Stress triggers painful flare ups.

Many of the captives suffer from various medical conditions, and the International Red Cross has not seen any of them since their abduction, another sore point for the families.

“If we continue to feed the lion, what’s the reason for it to stop,” said Shai. “Release the hostages and receive the aid, otherwise it should stop.”

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