ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 147

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If hostages aren’t returned, it will ‘stain Israel forever,’ released women warn at press conference

Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel's culture and lifestyles editor, covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center

Five female hostages released from Hamas captivity in November, 2023, pictured on February 7, 2024: From left, Aviva Siegel, Sahar Calderon, Nili Margalit, Adina Moshe and Sharon Aloni Cunio (Screencapture/Facebook Live)
Five female hostages released from Hamas captivity in November, 2023, pictured on February 7, 2024: From left, Aviva Siegel, Sahar Calderon, Nili Margalit, Adina Moshe and Sharon Aloni Cunio (Screencapture/Facebook Live)

A group of released female hostages — Sahar Calderon, Aviva Siegel, Adina Moshe, Nili Margalit and Sharon Aloni Cunio — make statements at a brief press conference Wednesday night regarding the possible hostage deal prior to further discussions on the matter in Cairo.

Moshe directs her remarks to the prime minister and his family: “I was there but I was released and my friends, the young men and women I educated, are still there. I think some of them didn’t survive because they were moved from place to place,” she cries, as Margalit takes her hand. “I turn to you again, Mr. Netanyahu, it’s all in your hands.”

Moshe says she and her fellow Kibbutz Nir Oz members protected the country’s borders for many years, “We didn’t run away,” adding that she wants her country back, the values of Israel.

Aloni Cunio, who was released from captivity with her twin three-year-old daughters but without her husband, David Cunio, directs her remarks to the six members and observers of the war cabinet and their spouses, mentioning each by name.

“Generations of Israelis were brought up that we always try to save Jewish souls,” says Aloni Cunio. “The price is heavy, and it clenches the stomach and body. But if we don’t, it will stain Israel forever.”

Margalit echoes Aloni Cunio’s words, and adds that “millions of Israelis and Jews are waiting for six people to make this decision,” she says. “If they don’t come home, everyone will know that they are next in line, that we live in a country that doesn’t worry about our safety, that doesn’t protect its citizens.”

Released hostage Siegel, whose husband Keith Siegel is still held captive, thanks Israelis and the Jewish world for their support, and adds that if the hostages are saved, “we’ll save the state of Israel.”

16-year-old Calderon holds hands with Siegel, as tears fill her throat when she speaks about her father, Ofer Calderon, still held hostage.

“Do you know what it’s like to be there even for an hour?” asks Calderon. “I want the warm hug of my father and so many people are waiting for that. You’ve abandoned so many people, please don’t relegate the hostages to a coffin. Don’t let me lose my faith in you a second time.”

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