Parents of female hostages urge government and mediators to finalize deal with Hamas

At virtual press conference, parents of four captives call on international community to fight for their children’s freedom, say war ‘will never end’ without their return from Gaza

Reporter at The Times of Israel

Demonstrators protest for the release of  hostages in the Gaza Strip, outside the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, July 7, 2024. Einav Zangauker, the mother of hostage Matan Zangauker, is standing in the cage at left. The slogan on the cage reads, 'Netanyahu, it's in your hands.' (Itai Ron/ Flash90
Demonstrators protest for the release of hostages in the Gaza Strip, outside the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, July 7, 2024. Einav Zangauker, the mother of hostage Matan Zangauker, is standing in the cage at left. The slogan on the cage reads, 'Netanyahu, it's in your hands.' (Itai Ron/ Flash90

With hostage negotiations set to pick up again this week, the mother of captive Daniella Gilboa said Tuesday she was allowing herself to feel “more optimistic” for the first time since her daughter was taken hostage by Hamas.

Orly Gilboa made the comments at a press conference held over Zoom along with the parents of three other female hostages abducted to Gaza during the terror group’s October 7 onslaught across southern Israel.

The event, organized by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, focused on the plight of the women still held in Gaza following a weeklong truce in late November, during which 105 hostages — most of them female — were released. The parents opened up about their experiences over the last nine months and called for Israel to pursue every possible avenue to ensure the release of their daughters and all other remaining hostages.

“The world must push mediators Qatar and Egypt to force a hostage-truce deal to move forward,” said Simona Steinbrecher, the mother of hostage Doron Steinbrecher.

“My life stopped on October 7,” continued Steinbrecher, whose daughter was kidnapped from her apartment in Kibbutz Kfar Aza when Hamas terrorists invaded. “I don’t stop to think about myself or what I need.”

That sentiment was echoed by the other parents, including the father of Agam Berger, who spoke about his dedication to fighting for the return of the hostages. His daughter is a talented violinist who was serving as a soldier at the Nahal Oz base when she was taken hostage on October 7.

“There are families that can’t handle it because they are broken,” Shlomi Berger said of the ongoing absence of their loved ones. “We try to be strong.”

Shlomi Berger holds a photograph of his daughter, Agam, who was taken hostage by Hamas on Oct. 7, 2023, as he speaks to Maryland lawmakers in Annapolis, Jan. 18, 2024 (AP Photo/Brian Witte)

Gilboa spoke about how her family decided to allow the full release by Israeli media of a Hamas propaganda video the terror group disseminated in January.

The Hamas propaganda clip released on Tuesday was originally part of a longer video that also showed hostages Karina Ariev, 19, and Steinbrecher, 30. Like other outlets, The Times of Israel published news of the video’s release when it happened, but did not share the clip or a detailed description of it.

In the video, Gilboa, likely being coerced, says she has been abandoned by the government and begs to be brought home.

“The only thought that let me publish it [was that I needed] to remind everyone that she is there and waiting for us, and for the government and the free world to bring her home,” her mother said of the decision to publish the video.

She said the video clip showed that “Daniella is assertive,” but at the same time, “as her mother, I can see her in a very bad mental state.”

Gilboa was abducted with six other female soldiers from the Nahal Oz base by Hamas terrorists. One of the soldiers, Cpl. Ori Megidish, was rescued by the IDF in the early days of the war and has since returned to active service. Another, Cpl. Noa Marciano, was pronounced dead in November.

Daniella Gilboa in a Hamas propaganda clip published January 26, 2024. (Screenshot: Telegram)

Addressing the virtual press conference, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum’s leading rehabilitation psychologist said Israel “must be ready to adopt comprehensive tailor-made rehabilitation when the hostages return.”

According to Dr. Einat Yehene, relatives of returning hostages also need support, as suffer from depression, anxiety and PTSD.

“I can say that we must approach this with lots of compassion,” she said.

In their remarks, the parents voiced their fears regarding their daughters’ wellbeing and the conditions in which they are being held, amid reports of sexual violence and abuse by Hamas. Berger said the issue was not being taken seriously by the international community.

“The short answer is no,” he said when asked.

Steinbrecher added that the families have heard from female hostages freed in November, who told them that “Hamas continues to abuse women.”

The family of hostage Doron Steinbrecher at the January 13, 2024, rally calling for the release of Hamas hostages. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Noting her recent appearance at a meeting of the UN International Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Meirav Leshem-Gonen, mother of Romi Gonen, said, “The representatives there believe that the young women were only paraded in Gaza like trophies but nobody touched them.”

She shared how she spoke to her daughter Romi for 45 minutes on the phone as she was being abducted from the Supernova music festival on October 7.

In the background, she heard “shooting and the voices of the terrorists” Leshem-Gonen said, as they dragged Romi by her hair.

She urged those attending the press conference to speak up against what she said was propaganda being employed by the UN that “Israel is committing the atrocities that Hamas did.”

Lihi Lapid with Meirav Leshem Gonen, mother of hostage Romi Gonen at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv. (Courtesy)

Appealing to the international community, Berger asked countries to do everything in their power to “make Hamas bring back all the hostages.”

If that doesn’t happen, he said, then the war “will never end.”

He also called on Prime Minister Netanyahu to finalize a deal with Hamas before he heads to Washington to speak to a joint session of US Congress on July 24.

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