Families of the hostages abducted by Hamas who remain captives in the Gaza Strip demanded Monday to meet with all three members of the war cabinet, warning they will step up protests against the government if they refuse.
They noted that they had asked for a meeting two days ago, after a truce with Hamas broke down and hostage releases came to a halt, and said it was outrageous that they were being ignored.
“All we ask is that the cabinet meets with us today. We deserve it; this disregard for us is humiliating,” Yael Adar, mother of hostage Tamir Adar, told a press conference.
“If they don’t meet with us by 8 tonight we will need to ask what to do to step up our protests,” she said, adding that the families would gather at the entrance to Tel Aviv’s Kirya IDF-Defense Ministry complex and stay there.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied the families were being ignored and said a meeting had been set for Wednesday. His office said later that moving the meeting forward was under consideration.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant met with some families of hostages on Sunday. Together with Netanyahu and Minister Benny Gantz, the three make up the special cabinet specially formed to oversee the war.
On October 7, Hamas led some 3,000 terrorists to burst through the border with Gaza and rampage murderously through southern areas, slaughtering over 1,200 people, most of them civilians. The attackers also abducted at least 240 people of all ages — including the elderly and infants — and took them to Gaza as hostages.
Israel responded with an intense military campaign, with the declared aim of toppling Hamas from power in Gaza and securing freedom for the hostages.
During a seven-day truce — which lapsed on Friday after Hamas did not deliver a list of hostages it intended to release and began firing rockets an hour before it was due to expire — the terror group released 105 civilian hostages: 81 Israelis, 23 Thai nationals and one Filipino. It is believed that 137 hostages remain in Gaza.
In return, Israel released 240 Palestinian security prisoners held for various terror offenses, all women and minors. Additionally, it allowed for some 200 trucks, including four tankers of fuel and four tankers of cooking gas, to enter Gaza each day.
The truce was organized by international actors including Qatar, Egypt, and the United States. Israeli officials, among them Mossad chief David Barnea, traveled to Doha to participate in the mediation drive.
Hostage mother Adar said at the press conference that the families want to be reassured that freeing the hostages remains the government’s priority after Israel recalled its negotiators from talks and resumed its Gaza ground offensive.
Adar noted the testimonies of released hostages about the abuse they suffered in Hamas captivity.
“We are asking for answers about their next steps, and for them [the cabinet] to assure us that the hostages are a priority,” she said.
Daniel Lifshitz, whose grandparents Yocheved and Oded Lifshitz were taken to Gaza on October 7, called on the government to free the hostages “at any price.”
Yocheved was released but Oded, 83, remains a hostage.
“Return to the negotiating table immediately… and reach an agreement at any price. That is what you promised us,” he said. “We will not beg.”
Noting also the reported conditions that hostages are kept in and that ten of those still held are over the age of 70, he warned that “time has run out for the hostages.”
“We are being ignored,” he railed. “We feel humiliated by you. You have time for everything except the families. It is a disgrace.”
Lifshitz vowed the families would gather at the gates of the Kirya and remain there until a meeting materialized.
He added that if the cabinet is unable to help them, the families will “turn to an international body,” without specifying.
Dani Miran, whose son Omri was abducted from Kibbutz Nahal Oz, demanded the cabinet set regular meetings with the hostages’ families.
“It can’t be that every time we ask for a meeting to hear about our loved ones we have to beg and grovel,” he said. “It can’t be that we, the parents of our children, don’t know about is happening.”
Haim Yitzhak Or, the brother of hostage Avinatan Or, said that over two weeks ago the war cabinet had committed to regular meetings with the families, but that it still had not happened.
“We sat in silence until we no longer could,” he said. “We want answers.”
Netanyahu denied the accusations that the cabinet is ignoring the hostages’ families and said a meeting with them had already been set for later in the week.
“A meeting between the war cabinet and the families of the hostages was already set yesterday for Wednesday,” his office said in a statement. “Due to the request from the families, the possibility of bringing it forward is being examined.”
Netanyahu first met with the families of hostages on October 15 amid harsh criticism by relatives at the time that the government had forsaken those being held in Gaza.
Defense Minister Gallant has held weekly meetings with the families. On Sunday he told them that military pressure is pushing Hamas to release more hostages.
In the meeting, Gallant said that talks to extend the Qatar-brokered truce broke down because Hamas refused to release more female hostages, and instead sought to free abductees from other categories, in violation of the agreement.
“When the military operations advance, the pressure on Hamas rises and so do our chances of returning more hostages,” Gallant told the families.