That is the message both those released from captivity in the Gaza Strip and their families have been giving to Israeli leaders with growing urgency in the days after the ceasefire with Hamas expired and a stream of hostages stopped returning home.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others in the Israeli war cabinet met with families of those being held by Hamas, which abducted some 240 people when it attacked Israel on October 7. They were joined by some of the freed hostages. The meeting was contentious.
Afterward, the families released an account that included what they described as direct quotes from the freed hostages about the conditions of those still in captivity.
“They don’t have another second, their lives are in danger there in the Hamas tunnels,” one said.
“They touch our girls,” said another.
“They shaved off all of Dad’s body hair to humiliate him,” said a third.
The war cabinet members — including the current defence minister, Yoav Gallant, and a former defence minister, Benny Gantz — took questions, but the families clearly found their answers unsatisfying.
A day later, some were expressing anguish.
“We want our family back home,” Idit Ohel, whose 22-year-old son, Alon, is a hostage, said Wednesday. “So can I tell you if I know better than the IDF? I don’t know.”
Her husband, Kobi Ohel, was at the cabinet meeting on Tuesday, and it was not easy for him to hear the freed hostages’ accounts, she said. “We have to figure this out as fast as we can,” she said.
At a news conference on Tuesday, Netanyahu attributed the return of those hostages who are now free to “a combination of a ground incursion of unprecedented strength and a continuous diplomatic effort.” “And I tell you,” he said, “this is the only way to also return the hostages who are still in Hamas captivity. And we are committed to doing so.”
The released hostages have also emphasised the importance of allowing the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit the hostages.
New York Times News Service