Israel-Gaza: Families of hostages make emotional appeal for their release

Noam Sagi and Sharon Lifschitz’s parents were abducted when the militants stormed the Nir Oz kibbutz near the Gaza border

Sharon Lifschitz, left, and Noam Sagi during a press conference of British children of Israeli hostages. AFP
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The children of Israelis being held hostage in Gaza made an emotional appeal for their immediate release on Thursday.

Friends Noam Sagi and Sharon Lifschitz’s parents were abducted when Hamas fighters stormed the Nir Oz kibbutz near the Gaza border.

In total, around 80 people from the community were abducted.

The pair, who are dual British and Israeli nationals, had not been contacted or offered assistance by either Israeli or British authorities since the kidnapping, Mr Sagi said at a press conference in London. "We have no information, we are working together in the dark," he said.

“The only hope I have now is almost like for humanity to do something for me to see my mother again and for my son to see his grandmother again."

Ms Lifschitz told how her parents, whom she is not naming out of fear for their safety, have fought for peace in the region all their lives.

The artist and academic, who also grew up on the kibbutz, said: “My mum was taken out, she was kind of disconnected from her oxygen in order to be loaded onto a motorbike or whatever it is, I don’t know.

“My father spent his life fighting for peace. I am his daughter. We are all his children.

“When we ask for peace, we ask to see the human within each of us.”

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Thursday used a meeting with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim, to call on Hamas to release hostages taken during its offensive.

A spokesman for Mr Scholz said the fate of the prisoners, who include several German citizens, was a focal point of the talks in Berlin. Mr Scholz “underlined that Hamas has full responsibility for the welfare of the hostages” and “demanded that the hostages be released as quickly as possible”.

Son of Hamas hostage calls attack a 'second Holocaust'

Son of Hamas hostage calls attack a 'second Holocaust'

Families of French citizens who were kidnapped by Hamas and brought to Gaza on Thursday asked for help from French President Emmanuel Macron.

“Macron, you have the power to bring back the disappeared. I want my sister back and I want her now,” Meitav Journo said at a press conference in Tel Aviv. She believes that her sister Karen was kidnapped on Saturday at a music festival in the desert near the Gaza-Israel border.

Ms Journo said she saw a three-second video of her sister, who had a broken foot, and two other girls being driven in a private ambulance. “Nobody is talking to us from the Israeli government or the IDF [Israeli army],” said Ms Journo.

Sitting next to her, Batsheva Yaalomi said that she wanted Mr Macron to provide her with information on her missing relatives. They include her husband and 12-year-old son. “My heart is broken,” said Ms Yaalomi, who managed to flee her kidnappers with two of her children, including an eight-month-old baby. “I don’t know where my son is. I wish that no mother in the world experiences this kind of nightmare.”

At the London press conference, surrounded by posters of the missing Israelis and the slogan "Bring them home", Mr Sagi said he should have been picking his mother up from London's Heathrow Airport on Thursday. She was due to visit him in the British capital to celebrate her 75th birthday.

"I shouldn't be sitting here," the 53-year-old psychotherapist, who grew up on the kibbutz and now lives in London.

“What keeps me going is I will do everything I can for them.”

He said Hamas militants targeted young children and the elderly.

“People who survived the holocaust found themselves facing another one," he added.

Mr Sagi said both he and Ms Lifschitz’s parents are “peace loving people who fought all their lives for coexistence and for good neighbouring relationships”.

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“If they will die for peace they will take it. If they will die for war that will be another travesty.”

His mother, Ada Sagi, the daughter of Holocaust survivors from Poland, was born in Israel in 1948. She suffers from severe allergies and recently had a hip replacement.

As a member of a kibbutz built on the ideals of equality and humanity, she learned Arabic and taught the language to others in southern Israel as a way to improve communication and build a better relationship with Palestinians living nearby.

"These people were marginalised in Israel for their beliefs. All their lives they fought for a better future for us," said Mr Sagi.

Ms Lifschitz recalled how her father had spent his retirement driving Gazans to hospital once a week, and how he'd brought a case to the Israeli high court in the 1980s, to help Arab Bedouins reclaim their land.

"We are two communities that live together," she said.

The pair recalled their childhood on the kibbutz, where children spent their time in each other's homes, and nobody locked their doors. "We never imagined that this was going to be how we reunite," he said.

It would be impossible for the remaining families of the Nir Oz kibbutz to return there, she said, due to the trauma that took place there.

“We now have to fight for those we can still save. The place is gone. The dead are dead. And somewhere in Gaza there are [kidnapped] children and mothers and this is our fight now.”

"We need people to get this sorted. We need these people to come back home," she added.

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Updated: October 12, 2023, 7:10 PM