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‘Last week, we had hope’: The poignant words of hostages’ families before accidental killings by Israeli troops

By Andrew Carey and Tamar Michaelis, CNN

Tel Aviv (CNN) — Family members of the three hostages killed inside Gaza by Israeli troops had spoken regularly to Israeli TV and news websites since October sharing their feelings and appealing for their relatives’ safe release.

“During the day I’m busy with communications and PR. At night, in my bed, I let out my grief,” Avi Shimriz, father of Alon, told Israel’s Channel 12 earlier this week.

“My wife, for most of the day, is sitting and crying,” he added.

The Shimriz family lived on Kibbutz Kfar Aza, from where Alon was captured on October 7. Many of the people living in the kibbutzim close to the Gaza perimeter had been advocates of co-existence with Palestinians, a sentiment Shimriz had articulated.

“We are a peace-wishing kibbutz. I have no doubt [that there’s someone to speak to on the other side]. Not everyone’s Yahya Sinwar,” he said, referring to the man seen as masterminding Hamas’s murderous assault two months ago.

Pressure has been growing on the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to do more to get the remaining hostages out of Gaza ever since the first agreement with Hamas – which saw more than 100 people released – collapsed at the start of the month.

As more and more testimonies of life in captivity have emerged, so family members, and Israeli society at large, have had the growing sense of time running out.

That sentiment has only grown in recent days. Even before news that three hostages had been accidentally killed by Israeli troops, Israeli officials had already announced this week the deaths of five other Israelis held inside Gaza, after their bodies were recovered by soldiers.

“On the one hand I’m happy for every hostage who came back [alive]. On the other hand, I’m very mad at the decision makers in our government. They should have already released everyone,” Avi Shimriz told Channel 12.

“Within our government I don’t trust anyone. Is it their son who is sitting in a tunnel? My son is sitting in a tunnel. My son has no oxygen. My son is having half a pita a day. I want my son here as soon as tomorrow.”

Many hostage family members have taken part in rallies to make sure the government gets the message, but Alon’s brother, Yonatan, had expressed his scepticism on social media that the popular demonstrations were having an impact.

“Here in Israel, it’s like speaking to a wall. You can set up demonstrations, hold hands, light candles, make placards, but [the government] just wants to give you the impression it is out of their hands,” he wrote.

Yotam Haim was also taken from Kibbutz Kfar Aza on October 7. His mother, Iris, had told Israel’s Channel 11 earlier this week that she had faith her son would return even without raising her voice at the government.

“Some people think that if they don’t shout, no one will bring their children back. I tell them: we can do it peacefully and through a respectful dialogue. The children will come back, I have no doubt.”

She had told Channel 11 she felt the government and the army were doing their best.

“We see that soldiers are getting killed trying to bring back my son, how can I keep shouting, “do something?”

The third of the kidnapped men killed, Samer Talalka, was a member of Israel’s Bedouin community. His father, Fouad, was among those who visited the United States earlier in the month to raise awareness of his son’s plight.

Speaking to Israeli news website Ynet during his US trip, he described his frustrations and despair at knowing nothing.

“Bring back our kids! How long can we take this for? It’s been two months. We families are just hanging. We don’t know anything,” he said.

As the father of a son held captive, he had described the anguish of watching the first hostage deal – which did not involve the release of any Israeli men – unravel.

“Last week, we had hope, because of the truce. And they said they’d get the children and women out, and we waited to see if we’re the next ones to get lucky. And we didn’t have any luck. The high hopes are now on the floor […] and the war has resumed,” he said.

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