Families demand release of hostages at any cost


Lerato Khumalo

Negotiations on an agreement to release the hostages remaining in the Gaza Strip have stalled. This is also an ordeal for their families. A father is fighting to ensure that his son survives.

His relatives have not received any sign of life from Sagui Dekel-Chen for months. The Israeli, who is being held in the Gaza Strip, was last seen in the autumn by other hostages who have since been released in the Hamas tunnels, his father, Jonathan Dekel-Chen, told the German Press Agency.

The family lived in Kibbutz Nir Oz until October 7. Jonathan Dekel-Chen said he was on his way to the USA when terrorists attacked the town near the Gaza Strip. His son tried to fight them off. Sagui’s pregnant wife and their two young daughters were hiding in the bomb shelter of their house. “It is very lucky that they survived,” says Dekel-Chen.

Nir Oz was completely destroyed in the Hamas massacre. According to official figures, terrorists murdered 51 people there. They kidnapped Sagui Dekel-Chen and several others and took them to the Gaza Strip. While he was held hostage, the 35-year-old became a father for the third time. But it is uncertain whether he will ever meet his daughter.

No breakthrough in hostage negotiations in sight

According to Israeli media, Avital Dekel-Chen said her eldest daughter asks about her father every day and whether he will come back. She has to function, but her heart is torn, the woman said.

“It is an impossible, terrible situation when someone you love is living in hell,” said Jonathan Dekel-Chen, who teaches history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The hostages in the Gaza Strip are only living from one moment to the next, the father is certain.

He is trying to keep hope – even if a breakthrough in the indirect negotiations between the Israeli government and the terrorist organization Hamas is currently not in sight. He does not see any other way to free all the hostages. An army spokesman also said in a recent interview that it is not possible to rescue all the hostages held in the Gaza Strip through army operations.

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The Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu (archive photo): For Dekel-Chen, the Netanyahu government is responsible for this catastrophe. (Source: Abir Sultan/EPA/AP/dpa/dpa-bilder)

Dekel-Chen, who like his son Sagui is also a US citizen, makes serious accusations against the leadership of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “They are responsible for this catastrophic disaster. I expect the government to give priority to the hostages.” He demands an agreement with Hamas at any price – even if this means that the terrorist Islamist organization is not defeated and continues to exist. Hamas will only agree to an agreement if Israel ends the war completely. Israel’s government has so far refused to do this.

In total, Palestinian terrorists kidnapped 253 people from Israel to the coastal area. Some of them were released through a prisoner exchange, and a few hostages were freed by the Israeli army. These military operations sometimes came at a high cost to the Palestinian civilian population, for which Israel has been internationally criticized.

120 people are believed to still be held captive by the terrorists. The Wall Street Journal recently reported, citing mediators in the indirect negotiations between the conflicting parties, that the number of hostages still alive could be as low as 50.

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Jonathan Dekel-Chen is fighting with all means at his disposal to ensure that his son can return home. To this end, he is meeting high-ranking representatives of the US government and speaking to media around the world to draw international attention to the issue of hostages. “They are not just faces on posters,” the father emphasizes.

The kidnapped people are real people, with dreams and relatives waiting for them, said another father of a hostage in the Israeli media. Perhaps the decision-makers in Israel and the world need every possible reminder of this, the man speculates. The fact that he, his wife and other parents agreed to the publication of a video a few days ago showing the brutal abduction of their sons is also an expression of the desperation of the relatives, who have been fearing for the lives of the hostages for months.