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Hostage families hold mock seder to demand: Let our people go!

(JNS) Families of Israelis still being held hostage by Hamas in the Gaza Strip gathered in Kibbutz Nir Oz’s bullet-riddled dining hall on April 11 for a mock seder to demand the return of their loved ones ahead of Passover, which commemorates the biblical exodus from Egypt and the Jewish people’s deliverance from bondage.

The hall contained empty yellow chairs (the color associated with the campaign to free the hostages) with pictures of each of the 133 hostages still being held by the terror group, alongside empty plates and cutlery, similar to the iconic exhibit in Tel Aviv’s Hostages Square.

Ofri Bibas-Levy speaks during a mock Passover seder for the release of the hostages in kibbutz Nir-Oz, April 11, 2024. Courtesy of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum
Courtesy of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum
Ofri Bibas-Levy speaks during a mock Passover seder for the release of the hostages in kibbutz Nir-Oz, April 11, 2024. Courtesy of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum

“Last Shabbat marked six months since they were cruelly kidnapped from their home. Six months and it feels as if they have been forgotten there. Six months where every moment of theirs could be their last moment and perhaps already has been,” said Ofri Bibas-Levy, the sister of Yarden Bibas, who was abducted during Hamas’s Oct. 7 invasion along with his wife Shiri and their two children Ariel, 4, and Kfir, 1.

“Will they be granted the freedom so cruelly taken from them? Hasn’t the time come for the whole world to also shout for Ariel and Kfir? A shout for justice, for humanity, for an end to this nightmare. Let my family go! Let our people go!” said Bibas-Levy.

The walls of the evacuated kibbutz’s dining hall, which was torched on Oct. 7, still radiated a rotten stench, prompting some journalists covering the event to remain by the windows.

“We are standing here at the place where I used to celebrate Passover with my father, with my family, with my whole community. So many of us are still missing,” said Noam Peri, daughter of elderly hostage Chaim Peri, who was kidnapped from Nir Oz.

“Do not talk about a ceasefire when our people are still held in tunnels. Apply pressure to make sure they are back home before Passover!” she added.

The kibbutz, located less than two miles from the Gaza border, was one of the hardest hit during the Oct. 7 onslaught, with one in four residents being killed or kidnapped.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed early on Sunday morning that Hamas has rejected the latest U.S.-mediated hostages-for-ceasefire proposal.

“It has been over a week since the Cairo meeting—Hamas has rejected the outline that was tabled by the mediators,” said Netanyahu’s office.

The development “proves that [Hamas chief in Gaza Yahya] Sinwar does not want a humanitarian deal and the return of the hostages, is continuing to exploit the tension with Iran and is striving to unite the sectors and achieve a general escalation in the region,” the statement continued.

“Israel will continue to strive to realize the objectives of the war with Hamas with full force, and leave no stone unturned to return the 133 hostages from Gaza forthwith,” it concluded.

The U.S. proposal would have seen Jerusalem release 900 terrorist prisoners, including murderers, in exchange for 40 hostages, along with a partial IDF withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the unrestricted return of Palestinians to the northern part of the coastal enclave.

CNN reported on Wednesday that the terror group claims it is currently unable to track down 40 living female, elderly and sick captives to release in the first batch in a possible hostage release deal.

Israel has pushed for Hamas to fill out the initial release with younger male hostages, including IDF soldiers, an official in Jerusalem told CNN.

Officials in Jerusalem believe that the IDF withdrawal from Khan Yunis and the flood of humanitarian aid into Gaza have hurt the chances that Hamas will agree to a hostage release deal.

Israeli-American Liat Atzili Beinin was released in November as part of a weeklong ceasefire agreement. Her husband, Aviv, a member of Nir Oz’s emergency response team, was killed on Oct. 7 while fending off terrorists.

“We are today at Kibbutz Nir Oz, my home. I will not list again the verbs describing what happened here—it is a terrifying list. Given our ordeal, it is my right to demand that anyone with a shred of morality join our call to return all the hostages without conditions,” said Beinin.

“For the families of the 133 hostages, there will be no ‘holiday’ without their loved ones. Don’t miss this opportunity,” she added.

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