newsIsrael at War

IDF soldier rescue and hostages’ proof of life give hope to families

“Please save our children and bring them home now," a desperate mother tells JNS.

A woman looks at photographs of Israelis held by Hamas in Gaza, at "Hostage Square" outside the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Oct. 30, 2023. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
A woman looks at photographs of Israelis held by Hamas in Gaza, at "Hostage Square" outside the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Oct. 30, 2023. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.

Pvt. Ori Megidish was rescued on Monday by Israeli special forces fighters, with help from the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), three weeks after Hamas kidnapped her from the IDF’s Nahal Oz Base.

The 19-year-old was among 243 hostages Hamas took to Gaza during its Oct. 7 invasion in which the terrorists killed at least 1,400 people and wounded thousands more.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commended the security services for their “important and exciting achievement,” saying it “expresses our commitment to the release of all the hostages.”

On Saturday, Netanyahu told the families of captives that the government would “exhaust every possibility” to bring them home.

“I want to believe that there are negotiations in the making and that we’re getting close to an agreement. The entire world has mobilized to put an end to this tragedy,” Hadas Kalderon, whose son Erez, 12, daughter Sahar, 16, and ex-husband Ofer Kalderon, 50, are being held in Gaza, told JNS.

On Oct. 26, Erez celebrated his 12th birthday—in captivity.

Though Kalderon receives regular phone updates from the IDF and the Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum, she said she has received “no real new information.”

She called on the international community to condemn Hamas’s “crime against humanity, saying “this cruel and barbaric behavior can happen anywhere. It could happen to your child in any country, any city, any village. As such, it is essential that everyone recognizes it for what it really is.”

Kalderon this week returned to Kibbutz Nir Oz for the first time since the massacre. She was able to recover only a few photos from her ex-husband’s house, in which her family spent hours before being abducted and it was burned to the ground.

“Please save our children and bring them home now. Release them immediately,” she implored during her conversation with JNS.

Last week, Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar called for “the release of all Palestinian [security] prisoners from Israeli jails in exchange for all prisoners held by the Palestinian resistance.”

Israeli Defense Minister Gallant, who also met with the families of hostages on Sunday, stressed that military force against Hamas is the most viable path to get them back.

Meanwhile, Hamas is continuing its psychological warfare efforts, releasing video on Sunday showing three Israeli hostages, identified as Danielle Aloni, Rimon Kirsht and Lena Trupanov.

“We are innocent citizens. Citizens who pay taxes to the State of Israel. [We are] in captivity. … You want to kill us all. You want to kill us all using the IDF. … It isn’t enough that Israeli citizens were killed,” one recounts in the clip.

Shiri Grosbard, a close friend of the Trupanov family, told JNS that it was comforting to see Lena alive in Hamas’s video.

“We buried Vitali [her husband] and we are not even sure that Lena knows,” said Grosbard.

Lena’s son, his girlfriend, and grandmother were also taken hostage.

“Bring them home now,” said Grosbard. “No other country in the world would tolerate this. People are talking about humanitarian help for the Palestinians. What about the 240 hostages? What about their human rights? We ask the international community to help us bring our loved ones home so we can breathe again.”

As the Israeli Defense Forces pushes deeper into the Gaza Strip, the issue of the hostages becomes more acute.

In a conversation with JNS, Oded Lifshitz’s grandson Daniel, two of whose grandparents were abducted on Oct.7 and whose grandmother Yocheved was one of the four women hostages released by Hamas, pleaded for the world “to continuously pressure Qatar to speed up the negotiation process for the release of the children and the elderly held in Gaza.”

Shani Louk, 22, an Israeli-German dual citizen who was believed kidnapped on Oct. 7 from the Supernova music festival near Kibbutz Re’im, was declared dead on Monday.

Ricarda Louk, Shani’s mother, told JNS she can finally achieve closure after weeks of uncertainty and mourn her daughter.

Louk views it as her responsibility to tell the world “how barbaric this attack was and how inhumane” the Palestinian terrorists who murdered her child and desecrated her body truly are.

“This has nothing to do with ‘Palestine.’ People should stop comparing this massacre of vulnerable civilians, who were mutilated, butchered, killed in cold blood and kidnapped, to Israel’s retaliation,” she said.

“Especially when Israel does everything to protect civilians while targeting terrorists.”

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