Israel-Hamas war: Israel says there will be no release of hostages or pause in fighting before Friday

Israel-Hamas war: Israel says there will be no release of hostages or pause in fighting before Friday

The agreement on the release of the hostages brought hope and agony to the families of captives held in Gaza on Wednesday.

Uncertainty over the deal – including who would be among the at least 50 hostages expected to be freed and whether others would follow – was straining the emotions of relatives who campaigned for the release of their loved ones during the 46 days following their kidnapping. during Hamas’s assault on southern Israel.

Israel said around 240 people had been taken hostage in Gaza, and it remained unclear which of them would be released under the ceasefire deal announced overnight. Ceasefires in previous conflicts between Israel and Hamas have proven fragile.

Hours after the deal was announced, the families said they had received no official information from Israeli authorities. The government said in a statement that the women and children would be released, raising the possibility that families could be separated – for example leaving captured fathers behind with their children. At least 36 Israeli civilians aged 18 or younger are detained in Gaza along with 13 of their mothers.

“I feel like yesterday and the day before yesterday, but worse,” said Yael Engel Lichi, the aunt of Ofir Engel, a 12th grader from Jerusalem who was kidnapped on October 7 from Kibbutz Beeri, where he was staying with his son. girlfriend, Yuval Sharabi, 17, and his family.

Since Tuesday evening, people have been calling to congratulate the family, Engel Lichi said Wednesday morning. But, she added, “we don’t know anything. No manager has been contacted to tell us anything.

“We are on the verge of collapse,” she added.

Credit…Fadel Senna/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Engel was taken hostage with his girlfriend’s father, Yossi Sharabi. Mr. Sharabi’s brother was also kidnapped in Beeri and his wife and children were killed. A nephew was killed at a nearby music festival.

“Imagine the feelings within this family,” Ms. Engel Lichi said of the Sharabis. “It’s hard. It breaks you more and more.

For others, the deal announcement was the first good news they had heard since October 7.

“We are full of hope,” said Aharon Brodutch, whose sister-in-law, Hagar Brodutch, 40, and her three young children, Ofri, 10, Yuval, 8, and Uriah, 4, were kidnapped from Kibbutz Kfar Azza. “At least for our family, this is supposed to end,” he said, “but then we have to worry about the rest of the hostages.”

Avichai Brodutch, Hagar’s husband and father of the three children, began a vigil a week after their kidnapping outside the military and government headquarters in Tel Aviv, saying the country was more focused on revenge against Hamas than on liberation. hostages. He arrived with the family dog ​​and a homemade sign that read: “My family is in Gaza.” He was soon joined by masses of supporters.

The Broduch family. From left to right: Hagar, Ofri, Avichai, Yuval and Uriah. All except Avichai were taken hostage on October 7.Credit…Avichai Broduch, via Associated Press

But despite all the hope sparked by news of a deal to free some of the hostages, deep concerns remain about the mental and physical state of the children among them.

Several of Alana Zeitchik’s relatives were among those arrested on October 7: her cousin, Sharon Cunio, and her cousin’s husband, David Cunio, were kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Oz along with their 3-year-old twin daughters, Emma and Julie. Another cousin, Danielle Alony, who was visiting the kibbutz, and her 5-year-old daughter, Amelia, were also kidnapped.

Ms. Zeitchik called each new piece of information a welcome breadcrumb trail. But she also fears for what her younger cousins ​​went through.

“The damage that has been done to these children, this suffering and this pain does not stop when they are released,” she said, adding: “Their return is surrounded by a lot of pain and trauma. »

Some families of elderly hostages, who are not expected to be among the first to be freed, have expressed frustration and despair.

Shay Benjamin, whose father Ron, 52, was captured while taking an early morning bike ride near Beeri, said she had put her life on hold since her father’s kidnapping and ‘she feared there was no end in sight. Noting that it took almost 50 days to reach this agreement, she said: “Imagine how long it will take them to reach another agreement for the men. »

Ms Benjamin said she would be happy if the children were released, but added: “Everyone deserves to come home. »

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Eric D. Eilerman

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