In the wake of the devastating October 7 attack by Hamas, residents of Kibbutz Kfar Aza gathered outside Tel Aviv’s military headquarters on Thursday, pleading for the safe return of their loved ones held captive in Gaza.
Survivors of the brutal assault, accompanied by supporters, held signs urging the government to take decisive action to secure the release of the hostages, even as fears grew over an impending ground offensive that might jeopardize their chances of reunion.
One placard bore the poignant message, “Our hearts are captive in Gaza,” while others displayed pictures of kidnapped family members. The anguish was palpable in their chants: “We have buried enough; we have buried too many.”
According to residents, 62 people lost their lives in the attack on Kfar Aza, with 17 individuals taken hostage and one person’s whereabouts still unknown. This assault decimated a community that once boasted 700 residents.
The rally coincided with an update from IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, who confirmed a total of 228 hostages taken on October 7, four of whom have been released since. Among the abductees were 17 individuals from Kfar Aza, fueling the community’s desperate plea for their safe return.
Meitar Yacobi, a Kfar Aza resident, expressed the prevailing frustration: “We have been abandoned for so long, and we will not relent until the government brings back all our abductees. We are here to ensure that our disappointment does not persist.”
Miki Levanon, another resident, added, “We demand the return of the hostages. We hope that Kfar Aza will continue to be our home. It seems we still have a long way to go, but I hope it will happen at some point.”
In a show of solidarity, former soccer star turned TV host Eyal Berkovic lent his support to the families’ cause. He emphasized the need to prioritize the return of the abducted individuals over any military intervention: “First, they should bring back the abductees, and then after that, we can talk.”
Amidst this turmoil, the military headquarters in Tel Aviv has become a focal point for these anguished protests. Avihai Brodtz, who survived the Kibbutz Kfar Aza massacre but lost his wife and three children to the terrorists, initiated a vigil there, vowing to continue until the abductees are safely back in Israel.
Posters depicting the faces of the abducted individuals have been affixed to the walls outside the Defense Ministry and IDF headquarters, serving as a stark reminder of the human cost of this conflict.
The situation escalated further as Hamas continued to hold Israeli nationals Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who crossed into Gaza in 2014, along with the remains of soldiers Oren Shaul and Hadar Goldin, casualties of Israel’s last major incursion into Gaza in 2014.
Despite mounting pressure for immediate military action, Israel has temporarily delayed its planned ground incursion into Gaza, allowing time for the deployment of additional air defense systems to protect its troops and ongoing efforts to secure the release of the hostages.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while confirming the looming ground incursion, remained tight-lipped about specifics. He asserted that the offensive’s objectives are to dismantle Hamas and secure the hostages’ return, portraying the terrorists as “dead men walking.”
In the midst of this crisis, as rockets continue to rain down on Israel, the IDF’s response has included targeted air strikes in Gaza, aiming to dismantle Hamas infrastructure while minimizing civilian casualties. Yet, the toll on Gaza’s civilians is staggering, with the Hamas-run health ministry reporting 6,546 casualties, including many children. However, these figures, influenced by political agendas, are challenging to verify independently.
The plight of Kfar Aza’s residents epitomizes the human tragedy amidst this conflict, a poignant reminder of the urgent need for resolution and the safe return of all hostages to their families.