'We lost this war on October 7': Family of Gaza hostage criticises Israeli response

Mai Albini's grandfather Chaim Peri was abducted by Hamas

Video shows Israeli tank firing at car in Gaza Strip

Video shows Israeli tank firing at car in Gaza Strip
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On October 6, 79-year-old Chaim Peri was telling his family stories from the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, which had taken place exactly 50 years before.

When war with Egypt and Syria became apparent, Mr Peri would tell of the mere hours that passed before he was inside Egypt with the Israeli military.

Hours after regaling his war stories, Mr Peri was abducted from his home by militants.

“Now 50 years later, terrorists come into our country and it takes the army more than 10 hours to [go] such a short distance. I think people are eventually going to have to answer for that,” said Mr Peri's grandson Mai Albini.

He is referring to the relatively slow and initially chaotic response by Israeli security forces on October 7, 2023, when Hamas militants attacked southern Israel. The collective failures that led to the assault from Gaza have seen calls for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign.

More than 1,400 people were killed and about 230 people were kidnapped by Hamas and taken into Gaza. Among them was Mr Peri, abducted from Kibbutz Nir Oz.

The priority right now, says Mr Albini, should not be on the war taking place in Gaza, but on releasing the hostages.

Everyone is talking about winning the war, I think we lost this war on October 7. The best thing we can do right now is to bring them home
Mai Albini, Abducted Israeli's grandson

“Everyone is talking about winning the war, I think we lost this war on October 7. The best thing we can do right now is to bring them home … right now nothing is more important” he said next to the municipality building of Jerusalem, just after an air raid siren had sent people rushing to shelters

Few – if any – residential areas in southern Israel are situated as close to Gaza as Kibbutz Nir Oz, which Mr Albini describes as his second home. About a quarter of its 400 residents are believed to have been killed, kidnapped, or injured on October 7 – the rest have left.

Mr Albini is scathing in his criticism of the government – both for what he says is its lack of support for the people in the current crisis as well as its actions in the last ten months.

Mass demonstrations have erupted across Israel in the past ten months to protest significant judicial reforms introduced by the most far-right Israel cabinet to date.

“We’ve seen now that this government is an empty eggshell. People all around Israel are doing amazing things for the hostages, for the people whose homes are gone,” said Mr Albini.

“I'm deeply sad to say that we’ve kind of proven what we’ve been saying all these months. Now, in the moment of truth, when we need them the most, they are just not there.”

The temperature is high in Israel after October 7, something that politicians and civilians have often referred to as Israel's own 9/11.

But even as international calls grow for a ceasefire in Gaza, Israeli authorities are refusing to back down.

The Israeli government has carried out significant retaliatory strikes since October 7, with soldiers and tanks now inside the enclave. More than 8,500 people have been killed in Gaza, about half of them children.

“I sympathise with all the civilians, everywhere. I keep thinking about the children, always. The elderly and the grown-ups, they know how this world can be,” said Mr Albini.

“The children do not deserve this, Israeli children do not deserve to be taken hostage and celebrate their birthdays in dark tunnels. Palestinian children don't deserve to have their homes bombed. We are stuck with this government, they are struck with a terrorist organisation who doesn’t care a tiny bit for them.”

A resident of Jerusalem for two years, Mr Albini is vocal in his criticism of Hamas and the Israeli government, but also his love for ordinary Palestinian people.

“I walk with Palestinians, I love them, they are my friends. They are here and they are not going anywhere, and we are here, and we’re not going anywhere. So only two options – keep fighting, or choose peace.”

Updated: November 02, 2023, 6:17 AM