Relatives and a friend of Israelis abducted and killed by Hamas terrorists visited Australia’s Parliament House on Tuesday, sharing personal stories in an effort to lobby for international support for all hostages to be freed — and for Israel’s war effort.
The group of five will meet political leaders during a two-day visit in Canberra. They are also expected to share their experiences with members of the community in Sydney and Melbourne during a weeklong Australian trip.
“Our aim first is to get the hostages back, all of them,” Elad Levy, 49, told reporters outside the Parliament House. Levy’s niece, Roni Eshel, was a 19-year-old soldier initially thought kidnapped during Hamas’s devastating October 7 onslaught into Israel but confirmed dead weeks later. That day saw 3,000 Hamas -led terrorists storm into southern Israel, where they slaughtered some 1,200 people, mostly civilians in their homes and at an outdoor music festival, and took some 240 hostage.
“Our second aim is to get the support of the Australian people and the Australian government… for Israel’s actions in wiping out Hamas and in our military actions right now to eradicate Hamas,” Levy added.
Australia’s major political parties have supported Israel’s right to defend itself but have urged Israel to comply with international law by containing noncombatant casualties in Gaza. Israel has said it is operating to minimize civilian casualties.
Israel agreed to a 4-day pause in its military operations in Gaza plus the release of 150 Palestinians jailed in Israel in exchange for the phased release of 50 women and children who were kidnapped by Hamas. The truce had been due to expire early Tuesday but was extended for an additional two days, with an additional 20 hostages expected to be released in exchange for 60 Palestinian prisoners.
Iris Haim, 57, whose son Yotam Haim, 28, was kidnapped from Kibbutz Kfar Aza, described the waiting as “psychological terror” for families.
“It’s psychological terror because they don’t give the names [for release] until the last minute. We wait in fear,” Haim said.
She said she hoped the ceasefire would hold until all the hostages were released.
Mika Shani, 18, said her mother, Tal Shani, called Tuesday morning to say her kidnapped brother Amit Shani, who turned 16 in captivity, was not listed among the hostages to be freed. The boy was the only family member to be snatched by Hamas during an attack on their home in Kibbutz Be’eri.
“It’s been so frustrating. Every day, like, maybe today is the day. Maybe today he’s going to get out,” Mika Shani said.
Ofir Tamir, 26, said his kidnapped friend, Noa Argamani, who is also 26, had been caring for her mother, Loira Argamani, who is suffering incurable brain cancer.
“The mother doesn’t have a lot of time or a lot of strength,” Tamir said.
Tali Kizhner’s 22-year-old son, Segev Kizhner, was killed at the same Nova music festival where Argamani was taken.
“It was not a matter of religion, it was not a matter of gender,” Tali Kizhner said.
“They simply came to kill everybody,” the 50-year-old mom added.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.