Hostages’ families pressure Netanyahu: ‘We want them alive, not in bags’ | International

The three hostages were naked from the waist down, calling for help in Hebrew and flying a homemade white flag to make it clear they were surrendering. But despite this, the Israeli army considered them a threat and shot them dead in northern Gaza on Friday, shouting “terrorists!” ” in what has become one of the darkest incidents on the Israeli side of the war in the Palestinian enclave. It also comes at a time of particular discontent among the families of the nearly 130 hostages remaining in the Gaza Strip, some of whom have already died, due to what they see as a lack of commitment from Prime Minister Benjamin’s government. Netanyahu to bring them back. It is for this reason that they demanded that they return “alive and not in bags”, like the last three, after a family reunion held this Saturday in Tel Aviv, at the end of which they sent a message to the war cabinet chaired by Netanyahu to make him an offer. …immediate exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners, even “with blood on their hands”.

Israel’s prime minister defended his handling of the war during a press conference Saturday evening. “Military pressure is necessary both for the return of the hostages and to achieve victory over our enemy,” he said alongside Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who took responsibility for the deaths of the hostages. three hostages.

In the midst of the scandal surrounding the three dead hostages, the Israeli authorities are trying to resume negotiations with more enthusiasm than in previous days. They do this through internal and external meetings at the highest level, such as the one that the head of Mossad (Israeli foreign intelligence service), David Barnea, is to hold in Oslo (Norway), with the Prime Minister of Qatar, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani. Netanyahu did not want to talk about it when asked, so as not to give information to Hamas.

“Alon was my friend,” Matan Sobol, 26, sadly explains to EL PAÍS, referring to Alon Shamriz, one of these three hostages. “It was terrible,” he adds, without wanting to accuse anyone, but revealing the idea floating in the air that soldiers in Gaza shoot at everything that moves, even at the risk of deaths like these three. Alongside Shamriz, the army killed Yotam Haim, both kidnapped on October 7 from the Kfar Aza kibbutz, and Samer Al-Talalka, captured from the neighboring Nir Am kibbutz. The army acknowledged this week that more 10% of soldiers who die in Gaza do so from friendly fire.

“The government does not talk to families,” denounced Rubi Chen, who was received last week with other relatives in the United States by President Joe Biden. When he returned, he called the Israeli executive and the government told him it would not speak with the relatives, he said. “I thought it was a joke,” added Chen, the father of a kidnapped man and one of the spokesmen who made statements Saturday evening at the so-called hostage square and missing persons in Tel Aviv to express his uneasiness after the reunion of the families and sympathizers of the hostages.

“We are asking the War Cabinet to talk to the families and not tell us that they are waiting for an offer from the United States or a call from someone else. The Israeli government must reactivate and offer offers, including prisoners with blood on their hands, and present the best offer to bring back the hostages alive, alive,” he stressed. “We do not want they come back in bags. This forces you to move now, “added Chen, raising his voice and showing an hourglass. Shortly after, it was announced that on the same Saturday evening they would be received by two members of the government , Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot.

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Rubi Chen, one of the spokespersons for the hostage families, this Saturday in Tel Aviv.Luis de Vega

The incident began on Friday after a soldier observed the three “suspects” from a building leaving a building located a few dozen meters away, according to the story reported in the local press from sources close to the investigation. This soldier thought, according to the same story, that they were Hamas members trying to set a trap and immediately opened fire, shouting “terrorists!” » to warn other colleagues in the region. Two died from the shots fired by this man in uniform and a third tried to return to the injured building while the battalion commander ordered the shooting to stop. The wounded man then began asking for help in Hebrew and returned outside when another soldier shot and killed him. Although the two soldiers violated protocols, the army recalls that in recent days they have been victims of several ambush attempts and attacks by suspected suicide bombers.

Sobol didn’t just lose his friend Alon in the last few hours. He holds a sign bearing the image of his cousins ​​Ziv and Gali Berman, both 26, still kidnapped in Gaza. “Knowing from the news we received from the family that they were waving the white flag and that they considered them a threat…I have no doubt that the army is doing the hardest work, they are trying by all means the means to get them out, but we ask the government to help us, the families, to bring them back,” he said during a break in the meeting.

Israel is now accelerating negotiations meetings on a new ceasefire that will facilitate further releases of hostages. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant held a meeting attended, in addition to the head of the Mossad, the heads of the army and the secret services, “focused on efforts to return the hostages”, reported a Defense press release.

“Those who were supposed to save them did not succeed”

Matan Sobol, without referring to current contacts, wants to think that these three deaths will serve to change the way of acting on the ground or to negotiate a new ceasefire, but, at the same time, he recognizes that what happened “This can happen in any fight or war. Those who were supposed to save them did not succeed, but, I insist, everything can change in a few seconds.” The war, which continues with intense fighting and bombardment throughout the Gaza Strip, began with the killing of some 1,200 people by Hamas militiamen on October 7 in Israeli territory, whose military response in the Strip has now accumulated more than 19,000 deaths.

These three deaths come at a time when families are increasingly critical of the government and demand a ceasefire after the resumption of attacks with very high intensity, not only in the north but also in the southern Gaza Strip, following last week’s truce. of November. This cessation of hostilities allowed the exchange of 105 hostages for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons.

“We knew this was going to happen, because they have hostages everywhere and if Hamas people find themselves in danger, they either kill them or abandon them,” explains Guy Levi, a 66-year-old sociologist and educator, who accompanies some close friends, from Kibbutz Nahal Oz, one of the kibbutzs attacked by Hamas, under one of the tents set up on the famous square. “This is why we are begging for a ceasefire, but the government prefers to continue the fighting because politics is more important to it than getting them out,” he adds. “Hostages are not on the agenda of the government, which only includes force and military power. The culture of Israel is military culture,” he laments, looking at the photos printed on his T-shirt of two kidnapped friends.

On the square, transformed over the weeks into a large installation of protest and memory, citizens take advantage of the weekend to get closer to the hundreds of images that recall those who are still kidnapped in Gaza, those already freed and those who were unable to return. alive. A piano plays accompanied by the voice of a young woman while the stands offer t-shirts, caps, sweatshirts, badges, bracelets and all kinds of objects to maintain the demand that the authorities bring them back . Hundreds of people are walking around and taking photos with their cell phones.

Under the tent, Guy Levi openly criticizes the policy of the government led by Netanyahu, who, according to him, is more concerned about “fascist settlers” than those “abandoned in Gaza”. He remembers October 7 with rage and displays the agenda for that day on the digital calendar on his cell phone. At six in the afternoon, Kibbutz Nahal Oz celebrated its 70th anniversary with a pool party. The event, which occurred barely half a kilometer from the border fence which separates this community from Gaza, was communicated and authorized by Israeli military officials, he is indignant. “I was spared that morning because my mother died in August,” Levi adds, twisting his face, which establishes his way of seeing the conflict in the two missions of one month each that he carried out in Lebanon in 1982. helped him move away from a way of acting that is often considered “immoral”. “The army killed friends of mine in the West Bank,” he notes.

The accidental death of the three hostages took place in the Shuhaiya neighborhood of Gaza City, very close to where the army was the victim of an ambush this week in which it lost nine of its men. The network of streets in which fighting almost always has to take place at close range is a well-known bastion of Palestinian armed resistance and was already the scene of serious complications for Israeli troops during the 2014 war. “My blood is boiling “. », specifies Guy Lévi. And he concluded: “The happiest day will not be the one when Netanyahu resigns, no. This will be the case when they bury him.

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