Relatives of Israeli soldiers kidnapped in Gaza meet with Netanyahu

The families are urging the government to reach an agreement to ensure the release of the 130 hostages still held by Hamas in the Strip.

Relatives of soldiers from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) who remain kidnapped in Gaza are meeting this Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It is the first meeting since the hostages were captured on October 7th.

The families are urging the government to reach an agreement to ensure the release of the 130 hostages still held by Hamas in the Strip.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu, the responsibility to bring our sons home is yours,” said Orna Neutra, whose 22-year-old son Omer Neutra was kidnapped on October 7th while serving as a tank commander near Gaza.

“At the request of the State and the security forces, we have remained silent until today. We were scared,” said Anat Angrest, mother of 21-year-old hostage Matan Angrest. “Today we understand that as the number of days of silence increases, the number of boys returning home alive decreases.”

“All Israeli homes know the feeling of sending a son to the Army. The pride, the worry, the anticipation of the weekend when your son will appear in uniform at the door, and we, the mothers, receive a big and strong bear hug. And we recharge, and we become the best cooks in the world,” she added.

“For six months, we have known that our sons are suffering and that we have no way to help them. We don’t even know if they are still alive, if they are surviving hell,” she pointed out.

“Why does the Government agree to put its heroes last? Are they less important than others?” she wondered.

The US government said Wednesday that there has been “progress” in negotiations to achieve a ceasefire in exchange for a hostage exchange in Gaza, responding to reports that they are stalled.

“We believe that over the past week and into this weekend, real progress has been made toward reaching an agreement,” said State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.

Miller, however, acknowledged that “some of the outstanding issues to be resolved are some of the most difficult and are areas where there is greater disagreement between Israel and Hamas.”

“When you get to the end (of a negotiation), when you make progress, the remaining issues are often the most difficult; usually, you don’t resolve the most difficult issues first, you resolve them at the end,” he added.

The US diplomatic spokesperson responded in this way to some reports that appeared on Wednesday in US media that the negotiations are stalled or even paused.

CNN, citing anonymous diplomatic sources, reported that Israel has withdrawn its negotiating team from Doha after Hamas allegedly rejected a proposal presented by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Bill Burns.

Miller insisted that the United States government does not consider the negotiations to be over in any case and assured that his government “will continue to try to bridge the differences” between the parties.

“We believe it is possible to bridge those differences and we will continue to try to bridge those differences,” he said.

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