Relatives of hostages held by Hamas after October 7 attacks urge Israeli government to reach ceasefire

21 May 2024, 16:50 | Updated: 21 May 2024, 20:33

Shelagh Fogarty speaks to relatives of hostages taken on Oct 7

By Will Conroy

Relatives of hostages kidnapped by Hamas on the October 7 attacks have told LBC “we need to keep fighting”, as they urge for a ceasefire in the hopes of their release.

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Hamas took more than 250 hostages to Gaza after launching an unprecedented attack on Israel and killing about 1,200 people.

A total of 125 hostages remain unaccounted for with at least 37 of them presumed dead, according to reports.

Amit Levy, 21, whose sister Naama Levi, 19, was taken hostage, has spoken to Shelagh Fogarty of the horrors his family has gone through.

19 -year-old Naomi Levy was captured on October 7
19 -year-old Naomi Levy was captured on October 7. Picture: Hostages and missing families forum

Serbian Citizen Alon Ohel, 22, was captured after attending the Supernova music festival, and his cousin Mayan Rosen also joined the show.

The two relatives appealed for the Israeli government to do whatever it takes to have the hostages released and to push for a ceasefire.

Mr Levy said: “We are demanding our government to do whatever it takes to bring them home as it is the most important thing.”

Ms Rosen added: “They should do anything they can - I mean anything. They should get a ceasefire, bringing them back home is the most important thing right now.”

Ohel Alon, 22, is an avid pianist and was attending the Supernova music festival
Ohel Alon, 22, is an avid pianist and was attending the Supernova music festival. Picture: Hostages and missing families forum

Hamas said it informed Qatari and Egyptian mediators that it accepted their proposal for a new Gaza ceasefire and hostage release deal on May 6 but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the proposal accepted by Hamas was "far from Israel's basic requirements".

Both Ms Levy and Mr Ohel were kidnapped after grenades were thrown into bomb shelters they had taken cover in following the start of the attacks.

Two of Mr Ohel’s friends were murdered in the shelter and his family have not heard anything of his safety since October 7 after seeing a video of his initial kidnapping that showed he was alive and unharmed.

Ms Rosen described her cousin, who is an avid pianist, as “a talented young man” and “the most friendly and kind guy I know”.

Ms Levy’s family were able to speak to hostages that were released around 50 days after the attack that had spoken to the 19-year-old before their release.

Read more: 'The world needs to know': Grant Shapps urges Israel to reveal plan for Gaza after war with Hamas ends

Read more: Israeli war cabinet member threatens to quit if Benjamin Netanyahu doesn't change tack on Gaza

Mr Levy said it has been “very, very tough” for their family but that they have to keep fighting for her release.

He said: “We don't have a choice, people always ask us; how do we wake up in the morning? How do we keep doing what we’re doing? I always answer - we don't have a choice.”

“If they're going through what they're going through, which is absolute hell from what we hear from testimonies and from what we understand because we know we're dealing with the most unhumanitarian situation I have ever heard of, we need to keep fighting till they're back. We have no other choice.”

“We need to talk about the hard things. For example, we in the family, to stay sane, we keep on telling ourselves that Naama hasn't been sexually harassed.

“We tell ourselves stories and convince ourselves that she is okay mentally. But still - the world - we make sure that they understand what she might be going through.”

Footage emerged of Ms Levi being dragged and pulled by her hair before being pushed into a car while covered in blood, soon after the attacks.

On the disturbing video, Mr Levy said: “Me and my 16-year-old sister, we watched it together pretty early on, about 12pm on October 7th. My parents weren't able to watch it at the time and we didn't let our younger brother watch the video but it exploded on the internet.”

“We see the video - if not online - I see it in my head every day a few times a day. I'm taking the strong energy from Naama in the video. Even though it's such a tough video to watch, I can still feel her strong energy.”

An Israeli military campaign has followed and come at a devastating cost to Palestinians in Gaza. More than 33,000 people have been killed, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

A demographic breakdown from the ministry on April 5 indicated more than 70% of those killed were women and children.

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu
Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Picture: Alamy

Mr Levy expressed his sympathy for the Palestinians suffering, reiterating the need for a ceasefire, but has felt that some of the reaction to Israel’s response to certain groups of people has been “way over the line”.

He said: “Even with the pain and trauma that we are still suffering from, we still feel pain for all the people who are uninvolved in Gaza who are being harmed no-one wants to see that.

“The responsibility for what they're going through is on Hamas, that's why we need to push for a ceasefire that includes releasing all the hostages so the suffering for us ends and for them.

Read more: International Criminal Court seeks arrest warrants for Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leaders on charges of war crimes

“The protests against how our government decides to act I think is reasonable and we as Israelis perhaps don't agree with everything our government decides.

“It should be very clear that there is right and wrong and protesting against Zionism and Israel and Jews sometimes is just way over the line.

This comes as the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has applied for arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas's leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, for war crimes.

Karim Khan KC said there were reasonable grounds to believe that both men bore criminal responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity from the day of Hamas's attack on Israel on 7 October onwards.

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