'We miss you terribly, but we are strong. Don’t lose hope'

Relatives use giant loudspeakers to shout messages to Gaza, in hope hostages can hear

Family members gather on border in attempt to reach out to loved ones who have now been held by terrorists for nearly 100 days

Families of Israelis held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza call to them over loudspeakers near the Israeli border with Gaza, January 11, 2024. (Flash90)
Families of Israelis held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza call to them over loudspeakers near the Israeli border with Gaza, January 11, 2024. (Flash90)

Relatives of hostages held by terrorist groups gathered in Kibbutz Nirim near the Gaza border on Thursday, using powerful loudspeakers to broadcast messages to their loved ones in the Strip, both as an act of protest and on the slim chance that the hostages will hear them.

The move was one of a series of events planned as the hostages approach 100 days in captivity, after being kidnapped in the October 7 Hamas-led onslaught on southern Israel.

Sunday, January 14, will mark 100 days since the devastating October 7 assault in which 3,000 terrorists stormed the border, murdering some 1,200 people and taking around 240 hostages, most of them civilians. While 105 were freed under a truce in late November, over 130 remain in Gaza, not all of them alive.

At Nirim, relatives took turns calling out over the giant sound system, with speakers hoisted up by cranes, in the hope that they would be heard by their family members “deep in the Hamas tunnels.”

“Romi, my Romi, we miss you terribly, but we are strong. Don’t lose hope. We are turning the world upside down to bring you back,” Merav Leshem Gonen, the mother of Romi Gonen, called out toward the Palestinian town of Khan Younis. “We can’t believe it’s almost Day 100. Stay strong, it’s almost over.

“I was so sure you would come back the same week,” she said in tears to her daughter who was kidnapped from the Supernova music festival. “I love you, my beautiful daughter.”

Omer Shem-Tov, Omer Shem-Tov, this is your father,” shouted Malachi Shem-Tov. “I hope you hear us Omer, be strong. I know you’re strong, I know your faith keeps you strong. Everyone at home is waiting for you.”

“Soon, just a little bit longer,” he said.

Family members have been waging a protracted campaign, both inside Israel and abroad, to raise awareness of the plight of their loved ones and to create pressure for a deal to bring them home.

On Wednesday, Egyptian officials said that an Israeli delegation had arrived in Cairo for a new round of talks on a possible swap of hostages held by Hamas for Palestinian security prisoners in Israel.

Reports in Israel Wednesday indicated that Israel’s war cabinet was reviewing a new “preliminary” Qatari proposal for a hostage release deal and ceasefire in the Strip. The offer was said to go beyond a temporary truce, providing a roadmap for ending the war that would include Hamas’s leaders going into exile and Israel withdrawing its troops from the Strip.

According to reports on channels 12 and 13, Ynet and other outlets, the proposal from Doha would see Israel allowing Hamas leaders to leave Gaza in exchange for the gradual release of all of the remaining captives, as well as the Israel Defense Forces concluding its offensive.

Israeli governmental and military officials have repeatedly stated that the IDF will not stop fighting until it has ended the terror group’s rule in Gaza.

Sky News Arabic reported that in response to the Qatari proposal, Hamas was demanding the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the hostages, and would not accept a deal that does not allow it to continue to govern the Strip — where it has ruled since 2007 — and guarantees a complete end to the fighting.

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