Families of hostages still being held by Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip were left torn by the resumption of the war on Friday after Hamas violated a week-long ceasefire.
“It is essential to prioritize the release of the sick and wounded hostages,” Shai Wenkert, father of Omer Wenkert, a 22-year-old kidnapped by Hamas on Oct. 7 at the Supernova music festival near Kibbutz Re’im, told JNS.
“The Red Cross has failed spectacularly to provide any sort of medical assistance or even report on the status of the captives. How can they survive in these conditions?” Wenkert asked.
He noted that Omer suffers from colitis, a congenital disease that could be life-threatening if untreated.
On Saturday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a press conference that Hamas had violated the ceasefire agreement by preventing the Red Cross from visiting the hostages. He also reiterated his commitment to destroying Hamas and bringing back all hostages, which he said could only be done by applying military pressure through the IDF’s ground incursion.
On Friday morning, Hamas ended the truce by failing to free women and children as it had previously agreed to, and then by firing rockets at the Jewish state.
The terrorist group has simultaneously intensified its psychological warfare on the Israeli public, releasing a propaganda video of hostage Yarden Bibas weeping over the unverified death of his wife and two children, including 10-month-old Kfir.
The families of captives have also been perturbed by growing accounts of widespread abuse by Hamas. Redeemed captives report having been beaten, drugged, threatened with death, underfed, kept in cages and denied medical care.
“I believe Israel is doing its best to bring back the hostages under difficult circumstances. Unfortunately, Hamas is not upholding its commitment. I still believe more rounds of negotiations will take place,” Wenkert told JNS.
On Saturday, Mossad agents negotiating the possible renewal of the ceasefire deal left Qatar due to an impasse in the talks.
Hunger and trauma
Efrat Machikawa is the niece of Margalit Moses, 78, a cancer survivor who was freed last week from Gaza; Machikawa’s uncle, 79-year-old chronically ill Gadi Moses, remains in captivity in Gaza.
“The elderly hostages, some of whom suffer from serious diseases, are not getting medicine and proper treatment. They don’t even see the light of day. They are dying of hunger and deep trauma,” Machikawa told JNS.
She described her aunt as “a very lucky, strong, amazing and inspiring person,” adding, “Her spirit won over this catastrophe but life will never be the same for us after Oct. 7.”
Circling back to her uncle, Machikawa called on the Israeli government and the international community to do whatever is required, including immediately halting hostilities, until such time that every hostage is released.
“It is our national duty and a global responsibility. Otherwise, the loss of their lives will be a black stain on humanity forever,” said Machikawa.
The hostage crisis has left a deep mark on the collective Israeli consciousness, with stories continuing to dominate the news cycle.
Last week, the plight of Noa Argamani came under the national spotlight after her mother, Liora, recorded a video pleading for the international community to push for her release.
“The current medical status of Liora is very complicated; she has brain cancer and the doctors say she doesn’t have much time to live,” Bar Rahav, a close Argamani family friend, told JNS.
“Noa is a girl who believed in peace and freedom. She liked to travel, explore nature and celebrate with friends at festivals. She was supposed to organize a party for her 26th birthday on Oct. 12,” added Rahav.
He said that the Argamanis were last informed of Noa’s status via two videos taken by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7. In one, Noa is seen being kidnapped on a motorbike into Gaza, and in the other, she is drinking water while sitting on a sofa bed in what looks like a civilian home in the Strip.
“We feel the government of Israel is doing the best to get them back,” said Bar. “On Friday, Hamas made a big mistake. After a week of releasing hostages, while trying to present themselves as a “humanitarian organization,” they revealed their true face. Instead of freeing all the women, they kept more than a dozen, including Noa, as bargaining chips,” he added.
On Saturday night, several freed captives spoke publicly first time at a rally in Tel Aviv’s “Hostages Square” attended by thousands.
“Every day you live [in Gaza] could be your last. You can’t imagine the hell. We must not leave them there. Not one more minute,” they declared in a joint statement after the event.