Thrilled by IDF rescue, hostages’ families say deal only way to free their relatives

Alon Gat, whose wife was captured and freed and sister remains a hostage, says ‘for the 120 people still in Gaza, we need to free them with the Biden deal and the Netanyahu deal’

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

Alon Gat, brother to hostage Carmel Gat, applauds a hostage rescue as he pushes for a diplomatic deal on June 12, 2024 (Courtesy)
Alon Gat, brother to hostage Carmel Gat, applauds a hostage rescue as he pushes for a diplomatic deal on June 12, 2024 (Courtesy)

Following last weekend’s IDF rescue of four hostages — Noa Argamani, Almog Meir Jan, Shlomi Ziv and Andrey Kozlov — family members of those still being held in Gaza expressed their joy at the success of the daring operation, while reiterating the need for a diplomatic deal to save those remaining in captivity.

“I am beyond excited for the families that were reunited with their loved ones,” said Sharone Lifschitz, whose father, Oded Lifshitz, 84, has been held hostage since October 7, in a statement issued by the Hostage Families Forum. “We’re hoping for a deal that will bring home the other 116 hostages alive. The rescue of the hostages shows that it is possible, but rare and dangerous.”

Israeli officials have confirmed the deaths of 41 of the 116 hostages who were kidnapped on October 7 and are still believed to be held captive in Gaza.

Both of Lifschitz’s parents, Oded and Yocheved Lifshitz, now 84 and 85, were taken hostage from their home in Kibbutz Nir Oz on October 7. Yocheved Lifshitz and another Nir Oz member, Nurit Cooper, 78, were released by Hamas on October 28.

Nurit Cooper’s husband, Amiram Cooper, 84, was confirmed on June 3 to have been killed while in Hamas captivity.

Lifschitz has said she has little faith that her father —  who was frail, ill and injured when taken captive — is still alive, especially after not receiving any sign of life for months.

Yair Mozes, whose father Gadi Mozes, was taken hostage on October 7, 2023, speaks about the need for a diplomatic deal on June 12, 2024 (Courtesy)

“We need the deal to happen as soon as possible,” said Yair Mozes, whose 80-year-old father, Gadi Mozes, was taken from his Kibbutz Nir Oz home, while his life partner, Efrat Katz, was killed while being taken hostage with her daughter, Doron Asher and two young granddaughters, who were later released.

In total, 46 hostages were abducted from Kibbutz Nir Oz and 71 killed, among approximately 1,200 killed and 251 abducted in the Hamas onslaught across southern Israel.

Speaking last week at a G7 summit, US President Joe Biden said he doesn’t expect a ceasefire and hostage release deal for Gaza to be reached in the near future, saying Hamas needs to shift its position closer to Israel’s US-backed proposal on the table.

Biden laid out a deal he said was proposed by Israel that would freeze fighting and free the 116 hostages held in the Strip in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. Despite winning the support of the international community, the offer was rejected by Hamas for failing to contain an Israeli commitment to a permanent ceasefire.

Israel described Hamas’s response to the US proposal as a total rejection. But the efforts to secure an agreement continue, according to mediators Qatar and Egypt, backed by the United States.

Many of the families working closely with the Hostages and Missing Families Forum — the umbrella organization that arranges weekly rallies, works on diplomatic efforts and liaises between families and government ministers and Knesset members — believe that the only way forward is to urge the government to reach a deal.

Michael Levy, whose brother Or Levy was taken hostage on October 7, 2023, speaks about the need for a diplomatic deal on June 12, 2024 (Courtesy)

Israel needs to work with the hostage deal that is on the table, said Alon Gat, brother of hostage Carmel Gat, in a statement he also made through the Forum.

“It’s amazing news about the rescue of the four hostages,” said Alon Gat. “But for the 120 people still in Gaza, we need to free them with the Biden deal and the Netanyahu deal that we are working on now and need to make sure that Hamas is accepting this deal,” he said, referring to the 116 hostages in Gaza since October 7 as well as two civilians and two slain soldiers who have been held there for nearly a decade.

On October 7, Alon Gat, his wife Yarden Roman-Gat, 35, and their 3-year-old daughter Geffen were forced into a car from Kibbutz Be’eri with four Hamas terrorists, with another kibbutznik stuffed in the trunk. When he and his wife caught sight of an IDF tank near the Gaza border, they took a chance and escaped from the car.

As they ran, Yarden handed Geffen to Alon, knowing he could run faster than she could. Roman-Gat was caught by the terrorists, while her husband and child escaped, hiding under branches and bushes for 12 hours, and eventually making their way back to Be’eri and safety. Yarden was released on November 29 as part of a weeklong truce deal.

Another hostage family member, Michael Levy, whose brother, Or Levy, was taken hostage while Or’s wife, Eynav, was killed at the Supernova desert rave, said his 3-year-old nephew is still waiting for his father to come home.

“I’m happy for the other families,” said Levy. “I feel they are my family and like every Israeli, I’m thrilled about the news, but there are still 120 other hostages and we have to seal a deal to get all the rest of the hostages back.”

Most Popular
read more: