When the Israel-Hamas war broke out more than a week ago, the only entrance to Gaza was destroyed. As a result, Palestinians who work in Israel cannot return home. Now, thousands of Palestinian men are trapped outside, while their parents, brothers, sisters, wives and children try to survive the bomb attacks in Gaza.
Hundreds of them spend their days in despair in government buildings in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, as more and more civilians die as a result of the war.
Many of them would rather go home and risk death than hear about their families’ suffering via phone call or text message.
Among those who did not want to be identified for security reasons, Saleh Hassan admitted that his wife and three daughters were trapped in Gaza.
“We are just ordinary people living everyday life. We had nothing to do with what happened. We’re just trying to build our lives and our families. My daughter is in her second year of college and is studying English. He wants to graduate. But now our dreams are shattered. Everything was destroyed,” he said.
Since the war began, Israel has hardly stopped launching bomb attacks on Gaza, which is home to at least two million residents.
Residents were asked to evacuate parts of Gaza, which stretches 40 kilometers long and 10 kilometers wide, with no way out.
Hassan himself said that his family was reluctant to leave their home, while his work permit in Israel had been revoked after the war.
Many of them despair of a happy ending and believe they will never see their families again.
“They said, ‘we want to stay at home until they bomb us’,” continued Hassan.
Meanwhile, photos of some of the 199 or so civilians who were kidnapped and taken to Gaza were posted outside the Israeli Defense Ministry headquarters as a reminder that they are still missing, including toddlers and elderly people.
Families of kidnapped victims and missing persons have united to pressure the Israeli government to immediately bring their families and relatives home.
Einav Moshe Barda is the nephew of one of the kidnapped Israelis. “They took his wife, my aunt Adina Moshe, who is 70 years old. He’s sick. They took him out the window, and then we didn’t know what happened to him until hours later. We know from many people who showed us a video that she was among two cruel terrorists who killed her husband and took him on a motorbike to the Gaza Strip.”
The family said that for more than a week no government representative had met them.
The Israelis took their own action. They called their venue at the Tel Aviv Expo Center a “War Room for the Lost”. There, hundreds of volunteers searched for evidence that pointed to the fate of the hostages.
The families of Israeli hostages united to pressure the Israeli government to immediately bring their families and relatives home.
Before the war broke out, many of them belonged to the Brothers in Arms group, one of the organizations behind nine months of demonstrations against Israeli government plans to overhaul the justice system. Now, the group turns their focus to finding the hostages.
Karine Nahon is the director of that war room. “Israelis from various sectors – technology, interrogation, intelligence, social networks – gathered here to get the full picture of what happened,” he said.
Nahon, who is also a lecturer in information systems at Reichman University, said that from the various information they gathered, they believed that more than 100 hostages were still alive. He then sent the information to Israeli security forces.
Israel itself has promised to eradicate Hamas in this war, while Hamas claims to have its own defense plans. (rd/lt)