Netanyahu to meet with relatives of deceased hostages amid mounting backlash

PM to hold two separate meetings Thursday and Sunday with family members of Israelis who died in Hamas captivity; brother of Yossi and Eli Sharabi says he accepted invitation

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks at posters of the Gaza hostages on November 14, 2023. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks at posters of the Gaza hostages on November 14, 2023. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has invited relatives of hostages killed in Gaza to a meeting at his home, several families said Tuesday, as criticism mounted over the failure to return the hostages held by Hamas.

“I was invited to meet the prime minister,” Sharon Sharabi, whose brothers Yossi and Eli were taken captive from Kibbutz Be’eri on October 7, told AFP.

In February, the army told Sharabi that his brother Yossi had been killed and his body was in the hands of Hamas. He said he would accept the invite.

But a family member of a hostage who died in captivity told AFP on condition of anonymity that she had declined the invitation.

“He remembered a little late to invite us,” she said.

Netanyahu has come under increasing pressure for his handling of the war in Gaza, with weekly protests demanding that Israel make an agreement with Hamas for the release of the hostages.

Demonstrators call for the release of Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip outside the Hakirya Base in Tel Aviv, June 4, 2024. The tape on the road reads “Deal = victory of life” (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Of the 251 hostages abducted by Hamas amid the October 7 massacre in southern Israel, it is believed that 116 remain in Gaza — at least 41 of them dead. One hundred and five civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November, and four hostages were released prior to that.

Seven hostages have been rescued by troops alive, and the bodies of 19 hostages have been recovered, including three mistakenly killed by the military.

Some of the dead captives’ families have previously accused Netanyahu of a lack of empathy toward them, whereas he rushed to meet hostages rescued by the military in an operation earlier this month, hailing their return and congratulating security forces.

He will receive some of the mourning families on Thursday and another group on Sunday, the families said.

The invites included both families of hostages killed whose bodies were returned to Israel and those whose bodies remain in Gaza, they added.

Government spokesman David Mencer declined to comment Tuesday when asked about the invite at a daily press briefing.

After more than eight months of war, the United States is striving to secure an agreement for the hostages’ release based on a ceasefire plan presented by President Joe Biden at the end of May.

The first phase of that plan would be a six-week ceasefire, accompanied by an Israeli withdrawal from densely populated areas of Gaza, and the release of hostages held in Gaza in exchange for Palestinian security prisoners in Israel.

A senior Israeli negotiator told AFP Monday that dozens of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza are certainly alive, but warned that “we cannot leave them there a long time, they will die.”

Most Popular
read more: