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Former Israeli hostages plead for UN Security Council’s assistance

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Former Israeli hostages or family members of hostages currently held by Hamas have appealed directly to the UN Security Council to do everything in its power to bring them home. A total of 128 hostages remain unaccounted for 222 days since Hamas attacked Israel and took more than 200 hostages captive.

They spoke at an informal meeting of the Council in New York convened by the United States and co-sponsored by more than 20 mainly western nations including Germany, The United Kingdom and France.

While the global focus has been trained on Israel’s military response to the Hamas attack on October 7 and the resulting destruction of life and limb in Gaza, the families of hostages continue to experience their own personal trauma – either as released captives or as family desperate to have their loved ones returned – preferably alive but for many already deceased.

Legal scholar and rights advocate Professor Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, says, “The Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court defines the taking of hostages as a war crime, both in international and non-international armed conflicts. Hamas has persistently refused to grant representatives of the International Committee of the Red cross, the ICRC or any other outsiders access to the hostages, and has also not provided any other details of their whereabouts or their conditions of imprisonment. Hamas leaders are therefore clearly in violation of the prohibition under customary international law of disappearances.”

Sixty-eight-year old Dr Shoshan Haran, who founded an NGO called Fair Planet to advance farming in poor arid countries, including in Africa was held with members of her family for 50 days before being return to Israel. Her husband Avshalom was killed on October 7 and her son in law Tal Shoham remains in captivity.

“No one knows better than me the tremendous risk of being a hostage. No one knows better than me the psychological distress caused by captivity. No one knows better than me that every minute counts,” she says.

She has appealed to the UN Security Council to do everything in their power to hostage taking from taking place.

“The UN Security Council should do everything in its power for the immediate and unconditional release of all the hostages. Bring them home now. My daughter and my little grandkids need their father, Tal Shoham. Then back home now. And that is a final note. If you care about the humanitarian situation of India in Gaza, like me, who dealt with humanitarian aid in all my professional life, use all the leverage and political power and do everything you can do to bring all the hostages back home as soon as possible. Only this will enable the rehabilitation of the people in Gaza,” says Haran.

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Ayetlet Samerano lost her 21-year old son Yonatan on October 7 but his body has yet to be recovered after being taken by Hamas from the Nova Music Festival.

“Do you know where he is? I’m asking you. And I’m asking you to bring him back to me. I’m not an investigator and cannot answer these questions. I’m just a mother who lost what is most precious to her in the world. I need the world to hear my cry and mothers cry. I’m willing to do anything, no matter what it takes to ask for your involvement. Please do not turn a blind eye to the plight of Yonatan and other 132 missing people,” she laments.

Gili Roman’s sister Yarden was among the first group of hostages released but her sister in law Carmel Gat remains among those still held.

“We know little about Carmel’s situation. We have heard from two teenagers that were held with her about harsh, violent, even abusive captivity. But we also learned about her resilience when they told us, she taught them yoga and meditation in order to keep their mental health. But since then, we don’t know about Carmel’s situation. Today, we don’t know if she’s alive or dead,” says Yarden.

While the council has called for the release of all hostages it has yet to condemn the actions of Hamas – a key ask from countries like Israel and the United States – while others have insisted on language condemning all instances of harm against civilians, including those perpetrated by Israel in the context of the long-standing conflict in the Middle East.

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