With pictures of those who are missing since Oct. 7 and those known to be held hostage in Gaza on the table in front of them, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with family members awaiting the return of their loved ones.
The prime minister embraced and shook hands with many of the family members during the two-hour meeting on Oct. 15. A readout from the Israeli Government Press Office did not provide any details on what was said specifically at the meeting, but two people who were present told Ynet that Netanyahu promised that a central goal of the war will be the safe return of their loved ones.
Netanyahu was empathetic and “heard our stories, hugged us, gave us his blessing and expressly pledged that one of the goals of the war is to return our abductees home,” said Dudi Zalmanovitsh, who is representing many of the families of the missing and whose wife’s relative was kidnapped.
A senior government official also spoke to Ynet.
Hamas kidnapped more than 150 Israelis during the Oct. 7 attacks, in which terrorists killed more than 1,300 Israelis, according to the most recent numbers released by the prime minister’s office.
Arnon Harpaz, who is part of an Israeli police center for locating missing people, told Ynet that there are daily, even hourly, updates at the center, which has tens of investigators.
But some family members have reportedly said that they have had difficulty securing updates about their missing loved ones.
Hundreds joined Avichai Brodetz, who began a protest outside the Israeli defense ministry in Tel Aviv on Sunday. The survivor of the attack on Kibbutz Kfar Aza—whose wife Hagar and three children Ofri, Yuval and Uriah were kidnapped by Hamas—has said he will remain there until those being held in Gaza return home.
“I served in the military in compulsory and reserve duty and love my country. I am not angry at anyone, but I want a change in policy and that first of all the women and children be released,” he said. “I think both sides in the war can agree on that. There cannot be any organization in the world that would want to harm a mother and her children.”
Brodetz is amazed at the support he’s received.
“If I could I would cry but I was not yet able to digest what had happened,” he said. “I need someone to help me cry, but I have not found anyone yet.”