OTTAWA – People whose family members were abducted during the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks against Israel brought their horrific stories to Ottawa Monday, hoping to remind Canadian politicians that there are still hostages that need to be brought home.
The Israeli embassy brought five people whose loved ones were either kidnapped or killed during the Hamas attack in southern Israel to meet with Canadian politicians.
Aharon Brodutch said his family initially feared his sister in-law and three children had been killed, because his brother arrived at the family home to find it destroyed. His oldest niece Ofri was supposed to be celebrating her tenth birthday on the day the attack began, alongside her brothers Yuval, 8 and Uriah 4. He later discovered that his family had been kidnapped by Hamas and taken hostage into Gaza.
“The soldiers who cleared the house, talked to my brother and told him that when they opened the fridge, they saw birthday cake and they all started crying,” Brodutch told reporters Monday.
Brodutch said Ofri’s presents remain unwrapped and the family wakes up every day with the hope they will all be returned home. Broducth, who lives in Toronto, said he has spent the last few weeks at his brother’s side in Israel, but returned to Canada to make the case for the hostages.
“We need governments of the world to pressure both Israel and Hamas to make this happen quickly, this has to happen now, prioritize this. The hostages over everything else,” he said.
Dozens of the more than 200 hostages taken by Hamas are children, some as young as infants. Brodutch said they need to be returned to their families and Canada should join the international community in a campaign to have them returned.
“There are children being held 23 days. It is unheard of and we need governments of the world to pressure both Israel and Hamas to make this happen quickly,” he said. “Children don’t belong in tunnels under the earth being held hostage.”
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Israel stepped up its military operations in Gaza over the weekend. It successfully freed one Israeli soldier who was being held hostage.
Israel’s Ambassador to Canada Iddo Moed said the government desperately wants the hostages returned, but said doing so requires the eradication of Hamas.
“We do believe that going after Hamas and making sure that the hostages are released, our efforts that can go in parallel, they have to go in parallel there is no question,” he said.
He said Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel and will continue to threaten civilians, so it must be stopped.
“The Israeli government is doing everything it can to achieve that,” he said. “At the same time, the terrorist threat that emanates from Hamas, the fact that they are continuing to shoot the rockets again into Israeli densely populated centres … motivates us to continue with the military effort until Hamas is totally eradicated.”
The Israeli government also screened some footage for reporters Monday of the terrorist attack that took place on Oct. 7 that was taken from security cameras in the areas that were attacked and from mobile cameras used by the terrorists themselves to film their actions.
The embassy presented an abbreviated and censored version of a video it showed reporters in other cities because the Ottawa press conference was streamed online and Israel has been careful to ensure the images, which show the gruesome killings of identifiable civilians, is not republished on the internet,
The shortened version showed Hamas terrorists opening fire on cars full of people who were attempting to flee the communities under attack. They also showed Hamas collecting the bodies of victims and taking them back to Gaza.
The video also showed Hamas fighters throwing grenades into bomb shelters that people had hidden in when the attacks began. Video from rescue workers who entered the homes showed bullet holes and long blood trails. There was footage of one vehicle in which the occupants inside had been burned.
Chen Zeigen spoke to reporters about his mother, Vivian Silver, a 74-year-old woman who spent the first part of her life in Winnipeg before moving to Israel
Zeigen said they don’t know where his mother is or if she is even alive. He said they want everything done to ensure she is brought home.
“She devoted her professional life and also after her retirement, she devoted her life to the peace movement,” he said. “Hamas is trying to frame the hostages as prisoners of war, but these are babies and toddlers and people taken from their homes. They have not had any access to any international committee at the Red Cross.”
Alexandra Friedman, travelled from Israel to speak for her sister-in-law Saphir Cohen and her family who are missing.
“Absolutely all of them got kidnapped or murdered. So they don’t have anyone else to speak up for them. And I think the world needs to hear that.”
All of the Israeli families said the Canadian government has been helpful and they appreciated the prime minister’s support for Israel and his denunciation of rallies in Canada that have praised Hamas.
Itay Raviv lost several of his family members in the attack, and others were taken hostage by Hamas. He said as long as the hostages are still in Gaza, the international community is not doing enough.
“As long as there’s no immediate action, this is a message of legitimation. So … we are hoping to see decisive action.”
Canadian Harel Lapidot spoke for his niece Tiferet, a 22-year-old who was attending the music festival where over 200 people were killed during the Oct. 7 attack. He said they first thought she had been taken hostage and only learned 11 days after the attack that she had been killed.
“It took more than 11 days for her body to be returned,” he said. “We found Tiferet’s body, parts of her were missing. Those are things that as a Canadian and as a human being are unbearable.”
Lapidot insisted the hostages can not be considered bargaining chip, because if terrorists can make trades for hostages, people all around the world will be at risk. He also said that hostages cannot be justified in a war.
“Hostages are out of the question. They’re not a part of the war. They’re not part of anything that’s going on,” he said. “If you start negotiations, It’s going to be part of the war and according to any international law, they’re not part of the war.”
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