News

At US Capitol, families of Hamas hostages say every day an 'eternity'

US says helped 400 citizens, relatives out of Gaza

By AFP

November 7, 2023 11:12 PM


 

Families of Israelis taken hostage by Hamas went to Capitol Hill Tuesday pleading for US support, as they described days that felt like an "eternity" while waiting for news of loved ones.

Political upheaval in the US Congress, with last month's ouster of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, created a brief delay in the chamber's ability to act on Israel as it scrambled to elect a replacement.

New Speaker Mike Johnson helmed Tuesday's press conference, put on by House Republicans on the one-month anniversary of Hamas fighters' deadly attack on Israel.

"October 7, my life stopped when my two younger brothers Gali and Ziv Berman were kidnapped," Liran Berman, who lived in the Kfar Aza kibbutz on the Gaza border, told reporters.

"We have no clue what's happened to them. We only know that they are in Gaza. We don't know if they are injured, if they are together, if they are still alive," he said.

Yonatan Lulu Shamriz lived on the same kibbutz, from which his brother Alon was kidnapped.

"I want to thank everyone here for having us, to the American government that helps us, but it's not enough," he said.

"This is a call for action... this is a wake up call for all of you here, all of America, all of Europe."

Amid concern over the humanitarian situation in Gaza, House Republican Steve Scalise said it was "not a time to be talking about ceasefires, pauses. Hamas gave that up on the seventh."

Doris Liber, whose 26-year-old son Guy Iluz was shot and taken hostage at a music festival, said that "every day is like eternity to me and I can't wait any longer."

Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress want to promptly adopt military aid for Israel, a long-standing US partner at war with Hamas.

Last week the Republican-led lower chamber passed a $14 billion aid package for Israel, which defied Democratic President Joe Biden's request to also include more money for Ukraine and other pressing priorities.

The head of the Democratic-controlled Senate however refused to take up the bill, and Biden also threatened to veto it.

Hamas carried out its attack of unprecedented scale on October 7, killing 1,400 mostly civilian Israelis, according to official tolls.

Gaza has been under Israeli bombardment since, with its Hamas-controlled health ministry saying more than 10,000 people, also mostly civilians, have been killed in the month since then in the Palestinian territory.

US says helped 400 citizens, relatives out of Gaza

The United States said Tuesday it has assisted 400 of its citizens, residents and their relatives to leave the war-battered Gaza Strip after the reopening of a crossing into Egypt.

"We have assisted more than 400 US citizens, lawful permanent residents and other eligible individuals to depart Gaza," State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said, an update from a weekend figure of some 300 leaving.

It was unclear how many other Americans were still waiting to leave.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a Senate hearing last week that the United States was tracking some 400 US citizens and another 600 of their family members who were seeking to leave Gaza.

Their plight became a key priority for Washington, with Palestinian-American groups suing the State Department alleging double standards after evacuations of Israeli-Americans.

President Joe Biden on November 1 publicly hailed the first departures of Americans which came after diplomacy with Egypt and Qatar, which has relations with Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the blockaded Gaza Strip.

The crossing was closed again on Saturday and Sunday over a dispute on the passage of ambulances.

The Israeli military has relentlessly bombarded Gaza and is scaling up ground operations in response to the October 7 attack by Hamas militants, who killed 1,400 people in Israel, most of them civilians, and seized around 240 hostages, according to Israeli authorities.

The Hamas-run health ministry has said the death toll in Gaza has surpassed 10,300 people, also mostly civilians.



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