An Israeli student who had three of her family members killed and six others kidnapped by Hamas is calling for a peaceful political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying that “killing more Palestinians will not bring peace to Israel.”
Shira Havron, 28, said despite the violence and trauma inflicted by the militant group, her family's message is that “this war is horrific," and that only equal rights for everyone will guarantee peace.
“It is awful to see innocent civilians and children being killed in Gaza. Everyone deserves human rights. This killing of more Palestinians will never work. It has never worked,” Ms Havron told The National.
A total 11 members of her family initially went missing after October 7 when Hamas launched the ‘Al Aqsa Flood’ attack on Israel, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians.
Ms Havron, who was on holiday in London that weekend, said she was able to stay in touch with her family members for some time, but soon lost contact.
Later, it was found that three members of her family including her uncle were murdered by Hamas. Six other relatives, including Ms Havron's cousin Adi Shoham, 38, Adi's husband Taal, and their two kids, Nave, 8, and Yahel, 3, were kidnapped from Kibbutz Be'eri, which lies only five kilometres from the Gaza border.
Five of the family members including Ms Shoham and her two kids returned on Sunday as part of the Qatar-negotiated truce and hostage release deal between Israel and Hamas. But Taal remains in Gaza.
“We got a gift,” Ms Havron said of her family’s safe release while dozens of hostages are still in Gaza, their fate unknown, as the war has resumed with grave intensity.
Gazans don't deserve to be killed
Israel announced it hit over 400 targets since the truce ended on Friday, which resulted in the killing of 200 people in Gaza.
Ms Havron said it is difficult for the family to celebrate while Taal is in Gaza. “There is no closure yet until he is back along with everyone else.”
She is caught in the midst of the gruelling emotional battle to bring home the hostages. She even travelled to Brussels to speak at rallies and meet EU parliamentarians to push for a speedy release of the hostages.
Ms Shoham says she is aware of the causes of Palestinian resistance but she condemns violence.
“I know what Hamas did. I know the Palestinian resistance and why they are doing it. But there is a difference between resistance and violence. What they did on October 7 was not resistance.”
In the same breath, she emphasised that civilians in Gaza, especially children, “should be the last ones to get killed in this war.”
“We do not want anyone in Gaza to endure this death and misery. As a family, it is important for me to say that we stand for peace.”
“What we want is a political and peaceful solution and not a military solution to the crisis. That is the only way forward.”
Mother worries for asthmatic son
Over the past week as guns fell silent, Hamas released 80 Israeli women, children and teenagers as part of a truce agreement in exchange for Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Hamas also released 25 others including Thai workers.
But with the war resuming, the fate of more than 120 Israeli hostages is hanging in the balance, and families say they feel helpless.
Among those holding their breath is Maayan Sherman whose son Ron Sherman, 19, a soldier in the Israeli army, was taken hostage while he was sleeping at his base.
Ms Sherman said Ron has severe asthma and she fears he does not have access to his inhaler.
"I do not know how he will survive in a tunnel without his medication," Ms Sherman, a veterinary doctor, told The National.
As the Israel-Hamas truce deal involved women, children and the elderly, Ms Sherman said she did not even have the room to hope for his release.
"I know they will not release him as he is a soldier. He is a strong and positive person. I know he is good at dealing with any situation. That is my only strength," she said.
She explained that she feels helpless and unable to think. "I want this war to end and my son to come back. All we can do is protest and pressure the government to bring the hostages home."