Israel at War

Families of US hostages in Gaza hold out hope for imminent release

Citing both the suffering of civilians in Gaza and their own agony, they urge negotiators to get the job done on a possible cease-fire deal.

Families of US hostages in Gaza hold out hope for imminent release
Families of U.S. citizens taken hostage by Hamas.
Evan Vucci / AP
SMS

For nearly 150 days, the families of six American hostages held in Gaza have endured unspeakable agony.

Now as President Biden says he hopes to see a cease-fire soon, they have a message to negotiators working on a possible hostage deal.

"There is just too much suffering, too much angst, too much agony," said Rachel Goldberg, whose U.S. citizen son Hersh Goldberg-Polin is still being held captive in Gaza.

"It's sort of if you had a branding iron always searing into your skin on your back," Goldberg explained, adding that she believes it's past time for the war to end and for the hostages to come home.

"There are hundreds of thousands of innocent Gazans who are also suffering. You have an abyss of misery over here. And I think everyone with any leadership role at all must step forward and say, it's enough. It's enough now," Goldberg said.

The Chicago native who now lives in Jerusalem says she feels a deep bond with the relatives of the five other U.S. citizens who are held by Hamas in Gaza.

Besides 23-year-old Goldberg-Polin, who was kidnapped near a music festival on Oct. 7, the five other American hostages are Edan Alexander, Itay Chen, Omer Neutra, Sagui Dekel-Chen and Keith Siegel. 

Twenty-year-old Edan Alexander grew up in New Jersey and volunteered in the Israeli military after graduating from high school.

Itay Chen, also an Israeli soldier, has roots in New York City and recently turned 20 while in captivity.

"In what universe should a child celebrate his 20th birthday underneath some tunnels?" asked his father Ruby Chen.

Twenty-two-year-old Omer Neutra was born and raised in Long Island. After high school, he took a gap year in Israel to find his roots and then enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces.

Thirty-five-year-old Sagui Dekel-Chen was kidnapped from his kibbutz on Oct. 7 and yanked away from his two daughters and pregnant wife.

"Their third little girl was born a couple of months ago. She has yet to meet her dad," said Segui's father, Jonathan Dekel-Chen.

Sixty-four-year-old Keith Siegel was abducted from his kibbutz — as was his wife Aviva Siegel, who was released in late November as part of a temporary truce. 

The family members of the six American men, suffering beyond comprehension, say they refuse to lose hope even as negotiations for a cease-fire appear to have hit a major roadblock after the recent IDF attack on Palestinians waiting for aid in Gaza.

Goldberg told Scripps News that it is her "ardent, fervent wish and dream and hope and prayer" that soon her son is "sitting next to me and that you can interview both of us."

Besides the six American hostages believed to be alive, the two dead bodies of an American couple are still held in Gaza as well — according to their grieving relatives. 

Gadi Haggai died in captivity in Gaza and his wife Judih Weinstein was killed on Oct. 7. Their family say they are desperate to get their bodies back to Israel.

Gaza, hostages lead topics on Biden's call with Egypt, Qatar leaders
Gaza, hostages lead topics on Biden's call with Egypt, Qatar leaders

Gaza, hostages lead topics on Biden's call with Egypt, Qatar leaders

President Joe Biden spoke Thursday with Egypt's president and Qatar's leader about a pathway to a cease-fire in Israel's war with Hamas in Gaza.

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