In Israel, the distress of the families of the hostages after months of waiting: News

In Israel, the distress of the families of the hostages after months of waiting: News
In Israel, the distress of the families of the hostages after months of waiting: News

“I feared this outcome but I would have liked it to end differently,” confides Avivit Yablonka, a few minutes before the start of the funeral of her brother Chanan, whose body was brought back from Gaza on Friday after 230 days in the hands of Hamas .

Chanan Yablonka, 42, was killed on October 7 while trying to flee the Nova music festival, the scene of a massacre by Hamas commandos that left 364 people dead.

In one week, the Israeli army announced the death of eight hostages who were presumed alive, five Israelis, two Thais and a Franco-Mexican, and brought back to Israel the bodies of seven people, whose remains had been held since October 7 in Gaza.

Dozens of hostage relatives gathered in front of Chanan Yablonka’s parents’ home for a silent march to Tel Aviv’s Kyriat Shaoul cemetery. Around them, thousands of people walked waving Israeli flags.

In the wake of the hearse, the compact crowd applauds.

“We have to bring everyone home,” says Avivit Yablonka, who dedicates this march to her brother and calls for “the release of all the hostages”.

“I am optimistic, there are dead hostages and living ones, and they must all come back,” continues this bereaved sister.

“I will continue to smile despite the pain (…) I wanted to hug you and I have to separate from you,” she then said during the burial.

Israeli singer Tamir Grinberg sang “Coming Home” for “all the hostages” before the crowd accompanied the deceased to his final resting place.

The war in the Gaza Strip began on October 7 after the attack on Israeli soil by Hamas commandos infiltrated from Gaza, leading to the death of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP count carried out in based on official Israeli figures.

– “I’m not giving up” –

That day, 252 people were also taken as hostages into the Palestinian territory. After a truce in November which notably allowed the release of around a hundred of them, 121 hostages are still being held in Gaza, 37 of whom have died, according to the army.

In response, the Israeli army launched a devastating offensive in the Palestinian territory, which left at least 35,903 dead, mainly civilians, according to data from the Ministry of Health of the government of the Gaza Strip ruled by Hamas since 2007. .

Questioned by AFP a few days before learning of her brother’s death, Ms. Yablonka, 48, said she was “afraid” of such news.

The day before, she was at the funeral of Ron Benjamin, who according to army information, had been captured at the same place as his brother.

“I’m scared, I go from funeral to funeral, I’m so scared, but I have hope, I’m not giving up,” she said.

Father of two children, Chanan Yablonka played in his youth for the Hapoel Tel-Aviv football club, of which he remained a supporter.

His family had not had any sign of life since October 7 and were informed that he was in Gaza 90 days after his disappearance.

“We thought they were going to come back alive and they came back in coffins,” his sister said.

Refusing to give in to anger, Ms. Yablonka wants to “believe that the government really wants to bring them all back and that there are difficulties in negotiating in the face of such assassins”, but deplores that no minister or deputy has called her .

– Anger –

On the contrary, Jonathan Dekel-Chen, whose son Sagi is hostage in Gaza, fumes.

“My anger is only growing,” he confided to AFP.

“We see that there is no progress for the return of the hostages (…) Israeli society is with us but the government is not doing enough to bring them home,” regrets this history professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The anger has not completely consumed Mr. Dekel-Chen who nourishes the hope of finding alive his son, kidnapped from kibbutz Nir Oz on October 7 and who left behind his pregnant wife and two daughters.

Since his capture, his wife Avital has given birth to a daughter, named Shahar, dawn in Hebrew.

In this kibbutz, around 75 people were captured on the same day.

Every day, Sagi’s father says he imagines his son’s return, with his grandchildren “Gali, 3 years old, and Bar, 7 years old, running towards him”. He also dreams of his son “heading towards his wife Avital and Shahar, the baby” and finally being able to “embrace him and return to a normal life”.

“This is my mission, I won’t stop until it happens,” he says.

Passing in front of the entrance to the university library, this experienced man comes across the portrait of his son, which has been sitting in front of the reception for months. He stops for a moment to contemplate it, with tears in his eyes.



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