'We've buried too many already'

As ground war looms, Kfar Aza residents rally outside military HQ for hostages’ return

Survivors of kibbutz massacre gather in Tel Aviv, say they have been abandoned by government; IDF raises number kidnapped on October 7 to 228

Kfar Aza residents demonstrating outside the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. (@sha_b_p via the protest movement)
Kfar Aza residents demonstrating outside the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. (@sha_b_p via the protest movement)

Residents of Kibbutz Kfar Aza, one of the hardest-hit communities in the October 7 onslaught by Hamas, rallied Thursday outside the military headquarters in Tel Aviv, calling for the return of the hostages held by terrorists in Gaza.

Kfar Aza survivors, joined by supporters, held signs urging the government to do all it can to free the captives, as the military appears set to press ahead with a ground offensive that some fear could imperil chances for their loved ones’ return.

“Our hearts are captive in Gaza,” read one sign, while others held up pictures of kidnapped family members.

“We have buried enough [people] already,” they chanted. “We have buried too many.”

Residents say that 62 people were murdered at the kibbutz, located close to the Gaza border, 17 were taken hostage and the whereabouts of one person are unknown. The community had around 700 residents before the attack.

The rally came as IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari updated the total number of confirmed hostages taken on October 7 to 228, four of whom have since been released.

Kfar Aza residents protest outside the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, October 26, 2023 (Yehuda Bergstein via protest groups)

“There are 17 people from Kfar Aza who were abducted, including a good friend of mine,” Meitar Yacobi told the Ynet news site. “We have come to make our voices heard.”

“We have been abandoned for so long and we will not ease up on the government until they return all our abductees to us. So far we have been disappointed, but we are here to ensure that the disappointment does not continue,” she said.

Kfar Aza resident Miki Levanon, 74, told the site, “We demand the return of the hostages. We hope that Kfar Aza will continue to be our home. It seems we still have a long way to go, but I hope it will happen at some point.”

Among the protesters was former soccer star turned TV host Eyal Berkovic, who voiced support for the families’ argument.

“Going in to occupy Gaza will mean another 500 dead soldiers, another 200 kidnapped, and the kidnapped will also die. It is impossible to both occupy Gaza and bring back the kidnapped. It won’t work. First they should bring back the abductees, and then after that we can talk,” he said.

As he railed against the government, he was shouted down by some of those present. The families of many of those held in the Strip have stated that they do not wish their campaign to be politicized.

Mourners attend the funeral of the Kotz family in Gan Yavne, Oct. 17, 2023. The Israeli family of five was killed by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7 at their house in Kibbutz Kfar Aza near the border with the Gaza Strip (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenber)

Kfar Aza was one of over a dozen Israel communities assaulted on October 7 when some 2,500 terrorists broke through the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air, and sea, killing some 1,400 people — mainly civilians — and seizing hostages of all ages, under the cover of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities.

The military headquarters in Tel Aviv has become a focus for protests calling for the return of hostages since Avihai Brodtz, who survived the massacre at Kibbutz Kfar Aza but whose wife Hagar and his three children — Ofri, Yuval and Oriya — were kidnapped by terrorists, began a vigil there last week, and vowed to stay until the abductees are returned to Israel.

Protesters have taped posters depicting the faces of those who were abducted to a wall outside the Defense Ministry and IDF headquarters, also known as the Kirya.

Hagari said the number of confirmed hostages is not final as the military investigates new information.

Hamas has so far released mother and daughter Judith and Natalie Ra’anan, freed on Friday night, and elderly women Yocheved Lifshitz and Nurit Cooper, released on Monday night. Reports of talks for the return of some 50 dual-nationals earlier this week appeared to fizzle; Hamas said it was demanding that Israel allow fuel to be shipped into the Strip, which Israel has adamantly refused.

Hamas is also holding Israelis Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who crossed into Gaza in 2014, and the remains of soldiers Oren Shaul and Hadar Goldin, killed during Israel’s last major incursion into Gaza in 2014.

Israel has reportedly agreed to a request from the United States to temporarily delay its planned ground incursion into Gaza to give Washington more time to deploy additional air defense systems to protect its troops in the region, as well as to allow the ongoing efforts to secure the release of the hostages.

View of the destruction caused by Hamas terrorist in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, southern Israel, October 15, 2023 (Edi Israel/Flash90)

Addressing the apparent delay to the ground incursion, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asserted Wednesday evening that it is looming, but added he would not share when or how. He also said he would not share the range of considerations involved.

The prime minister said that the offensive’s aims are to destroy Hamas and to return the hostages, casting members of the terror group as “dead men walking.”

“We are preparing for a ground incursion. I won’t specify when, how, how many. I also won’t detail the range of considerations, most of which the public is not aware of. And that’s the way it is supposed to be. This is the way so that we protect our soldiers’ lives,” Netanyahu said, adding that there was a unanimous decision about the timing of the ground operation.

In the 19 days since the October 7 massacre, while terrorists still fire daily barrages of rockets toward Israel, the IDF has responded with an air offensive on the coastal enclave as well as limited incursions it says is aimed at destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and has vowed to eliminate the entire terror group, which rules the Strip. It says it is targeting all areas where Hamas operates while trying to minimize civilian casualties, and has called on residents to move to the southern part of Gaza.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says the strikes have killed 6,546 people, mostly civilians and many of them children. The figures issued by the terror group cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include its own terrorists and gunmen, killed in Israel and in Gaza, and the victims of a blast at a Gaza City hospital on October 17 caused by an Islamic Jihad missile misfire that Hamas has blamed on Israel. Israel says it killed 1,500 Hamas terrorists inside Israel on and after October 7.

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