Joined by members of Israel’s parliament and relatives of hostages still held in the Gaza Strip, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators and representatives vowed Wednesday to do everything in their power to reunite the captives with their families.
What You Need To Know
- Joined by members of Israel’s parliament and relatives of hostages still held in the Gaza Strip, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators and representatives vowed Wednesday to do everything in their power to reunite the captives with their families
- The press conference, aimed at keeping the hostages in the news, was held on the four-month mark of Hamas’ attack on Israel
- Hamas is still holding more than 130 hostages, but around 30 of them are believed to be dead
- Ernst said Congress can help the hostages by continuing to apply pressure to Qatar, which brokered previous releases and pauses in fighting and is working with the U.S. and Egypt on securing additional releases
The press conference, aimed at keeping the hostages in the news, was held on the four-month mark of Hamas’ attack on Israel. About 1,200 people were killed and 250 hostages were taken on Oct. 7, according to Israeli authorities.
Hamas is still holding more than 130 hostages, but around 30 of them are believed to be dead.
“For 124 days, Hamas has held innocent Israelis [and] American citizens captive,” said Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa. “I've been to the region and seen the brutal impact of Iranian-backed terrorism. These families live in agony every single day. They are uncertain if their loved ones are even alive or if they have passed.”
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., promised the families of the captives: “We will help bring home every last hostage. We will not let Hamas succeed.”
Amir Ohana, speaker of the Israeli Knesset, said, after being invited to Washington by House Speaker Mike Johnson, he thought it would a good idea to bring with him other members of the nation’s parliament and relatives of hostages representing three religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
“The purpose of this delegation is to show the world and to show America that we are united, unlike what Hamas intended,” Ohana said.
Tzvika Mor Mor said he still does not know if his son, Eitan Mor, 23, is still alive, adding his family has received no updates from Israeli intelligence for 70 days.
“I think that's the first step to be with us is to close your eyes and to think about your loved ones being in a dark tunnel without air, without food, without water,” Tzvika Mor Mor said.
Ali Zyadna said his brother, Yousef Zyadna, who is Bedouin, and his three children were abducted — two have since been released.
“Even though they spoke Arabic and they had the kid, Aisha [16 years old], she wore a hijab and they know they are Muslims, Hamas took them like everyone else,” Ali Zyadna said through an interpreter.
“We don't know for four months how are they doing. And with the help of President Biden and your help, they will come back,” he added.
Eitan Gonen described receiving a 6:30 a.m. phone call from his daughter Romi Gonen, 23, when Hamas attacked the Supernova music festival, where she and a friend went to dance.
“Romi’s on the line shouting in panic, ‘Dad, Abba, I’ve been shot. I’m in the festival, and I’ve been shot,’” he said. “And for 4 ½ hours, we’ve been with her online, and it was very, very bad discussions. Basically, we heard her being kidnapped live online.”
Eitan Gonen said the last update he received about Romi was 74 days ago, when hostages who were freed said she was alive but severely wounded. Her father is worried she might lose, or already has lost, her arm.
“We're confident that Romi is going to be back home alive standing on her own two feet and running towards our wide-spread arms, hugging her and not letting her go again to any other place than Israel,” Eitan Gonen said.
Thomas Hand said he’s a “very, very luck parent.” After initially believing his daughter Emily was killed on Oct. 7, she was released in November, following 50 days in captivity and shortly after her 9th birthday.
“I don't know how these people are still standing. I really don’t,” he said of the hostages’ family members who were present. “Because as soon as I got Emily back, I literally physically collapsed. I had nothing left inside me.”
Ernst said Congress can help the hostages by continuing to apply pressure to Qatar, which brokered previous releases and pauses in fighting and is working with the U.S. and Egypt on securing additional releases. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a proposal by Hamas on Wednesday.
Ernst said the Biden administration told her that a meeting between Qatari officials and a bipartisan, bicameral delegation “was a very clear turning point in bringing Qatar forward to put more pressure on Hamas.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.