“Do everything you can”: Families of Hamas hostages call on lawmakers to help secure their release

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Families of American and Israeli hostages held by Hamas arrived on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, continuing their calls for lawmakers to help bring their loved ones home.

“You are all legislators of the most powerful country in the world, a beacon of democracy, and a defender of civil and human rights,” said Yarden Gonen, whose younger sister was kidnapped on October 7 by Hamas. Terrorist group. “Please, with such great power comes great responsibility. I ask that you do everything in your power to bring our hostages back home where they deserve to be.”

A bipartisan group of senators hosted the families at the Capitol to discuss the importance of U.S. support in helping bring their family members home after spending more than 100 days in captivity, according to a news release.

Photo: Orna and Ronen Neutra, whose son Omar is being held hostage by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, holds photos of him during a bipartisan news conference for lawmakers on Capitol Hill, January 17, 2024, in Washington.

Orna and Ronen Neutra, whose son Omar was held hostage by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, hold photos of himself during a press conference held by lawmakers from both parties on Capitol Hill, January 17, 2024, in Washington.

Brendan Smielowski/AFP via Getty Images

The senators assured the families that they have their support and will continue to press for the hostages’ release as the war between Israel and Hamas rages on.

In the Gaza Strip, more than 24,400 people have been killed by Israeli forces since October 7, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza. In Israel, at least 1,200 people have been killed by Hamas and other Palestinian militants since October 7, according to Israeli officials.

“We’re making slow, slow, slow but important progress,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “That doesn’t mean that progress can’t come fast enough.”

PHOTO: Relatives of people held hostage by Hamas in the Gaza Strip react as Sen. Ben Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, speaks during a bipartisan news conference for lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Jan. 17, 2024, in Washington.

Relatives of people held hostage by Hamas in the Gaza Strip react as Sen. Ben Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, speaks during a bipartisan news conference for lawmakers on Capitol Hill, January 17, 2024, in Washington.

Brendan Smielowski/AFP via Getty Images

Orna Nierta, whose son Omar was kidnapped by Hamas, recalled a meeting she held more than a month ago with President Joe Biden, who encouraged families to maintain hope.

While she said she was trying to remain optimistic, as Biden suggested, she called for more action.

“At no time in our lives, until now, has hope and prayer in and of themselves yielded results without action,” Nirta said.

The families also stressed the urgent need for their loved ones to be released.

John Bolin said his son Hirsch was kidnapped from the Supernova music festival and lost his arm while being held hostage.

At least 260 people were killed at the music festival after Hamas targeted the event in its massive and unprecedented attack on Israel. Many attendees were also taken hostage.

“For 103 days, my wife Rachel and I received minimal information about Hirsch. We don’t even know if he is alive,” he said. “One hundred and three days is 103 days too many, and we’re running out of time. The hostages are running out of time.”

She said that Gonene’s younger sister was also present at the festival when she was kidnapped after witnessing the murder of her best friend.

“Instead of having a time in her life celebrating love, peace, freedom and friendship, she was the victim of hatred, torture and pure, unimaginable evil,” Gonen said.

During the press conference, Liz Naftali, the aunt of 4-year-old Abigail Idan, who was held hostage and later released, criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that she had been informed of the existence of several deals regarding the hostage’s release. hostages and claimed that the obstruction was with his government.

She also claimed that the Prime Minister wants the war to continue so that he can remain in office.

In his opening remarks, Sen. Ben Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, said lawmakers “will not rest until the hostages return home and we will not forget our commitment to bring them home safely.”

On Wednesday afternoon, House Speaker Mike Johnson held a candlelight vigil, with some members wearing what looked like a ribbon with the number “103” written on it, representing the number of days that had passed since the Hamas hostages were taken.

During his remarks at the beginning of the protest, Johnson criticized Democrats, saying: “Unfortunately, there are some who continue to sympathize with Hamas. Their shocking actions and rhetoric remind us exactly why we need a protest like this.” “

This article originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

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