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Hamas killed her mother and niece. Her children are hostages in Gaza.

TEL AVIV (JTA) — Hadas Calderon flung a printed picture of her mother, Carmela Dan, an American-Israeli who was reported kidnapped by Hamas on Oct. 7, to the floor.

“She’s dead. There’s nothing I can do about her anymore. I don’t even have a minute to think about mourning,” Calderon told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

“But I can save the living. I can fight to save my children.”

Calderon’s comments came as she participated in a press conference in Tel Aviv organized as part of a sweeping, sustained effort to draw local and global attention to the more than 200 Israeli captives now held in Gaza. Thursday’s event focused on just one subset of the group: the children.

Neither Israel nor the Hostages and Missing Families Forum will give an estimate of how many of the captives are children. But videos shared by Hamas and pictures shared by their relatives have seared the faces of several into the international consciousness.

One of the children to gain widespread attention is Calderon’s 12-year-old niece, Noya Dan, who had slept over at Carmela’s home on Kibbutz Nir Oz the night of the attack. A quarter of the kibbutz’s population is now dead or missing; her mother and sister are among the survivors.

A picture of Noya dressed as Harry Potter circulated widely on social media, even drawing amplification from the character’s creator, J.K. Rowling, after Israel asked the British author to publicize her disappearance.

This beautiful 12 year old girl with autism was kidnapped from her home by Hamas terrorists and was taken to Gaza.

Noya, is sensitive, kind, funny and a massive Harry Potter fan. @jk_rowling can you help us get her story out?

Share this and help us bring Noya home …

— Israel ישראל (@Israel) October 15, 2023

On Wednesday, Hadas Calderon celebrated her mother’s 80th birthday in her absence. She said the gathering was full of hope that Carmela would be soon released. The following day at 10 p.m. she received a phone call from the army telling her that Carmela’s and Noya’s bodies had been identified. She said she still does not know the circumstances surrounding their death — including on what side of the border they were killed. She wonders whether Noya’s autism might have played a role.

“We don’t know what happened. Maybe [Carmela] couldn’t walk with her anymore so they killed her,” Calderon said. “Which makes us so worried for the others.”

The others include Calderon’s own children, 16-year-old daughter Sahar and 12-year-old son Erez, who were also on the kibbutz that night with their father.

“I can hear every night my son screaming to me, mom, save me,” she said, crying.

Hadas Calderon holds up a picture of her children, Sahar and Erez, at a press conference about child hostages of Hamas in Tel Aviv, Oct. 19, 2023. (Deborah Danan)

She said the army told her that they are likely in Khan Younis, a southern Gazan city just six miles from Nir Oz. With the Israeli army preparing for what it says could be an extended ground invasion of Gaza, she knows her family is at risk.

“Stop immediately any military action” until the hostages are released, she said. “And then make the war. You can’t make a war at the expense of children and babies.”

Some reports have emerged of back-channel negotiations around freeing the hostages, but Calderon joins other families of captives in believing that Israel should be doing more. She assailed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for saying that “bringing back the hostages was part of the goals” of Operation Iron Sword, the army’s name for the war.

“It’s not ‘part of the goal,’” she said. “It’s the only goal.”

Yifat Zailer told JTA that hearing Calderon become so impassioned made her believe she should be doing more to get her family’s message across. Zailer is advocating for her niece and nephew, Ariel and Kfir Bibas, and their family members. Ariel, 4, and Kfir, 10 months, were taken with their mother Shiri, Zailer’s cousin; their father Yarden; and Shiri’s parents, Yossi and Margit Silverman.

Shiri Silberman-Bibas and Kfir Bibas are visible in footage taken by Hamas after they were taken captive on Oct. 7, 2023. (X)

Shiri, Ariel and Kfir became some of the earliest faces of the hostage crisis, historic in its scope, after footage of them aired on Palestinian news and circulated online within hours of the attack. Shiri can be seen crying while carrying Kfir.

All are Argentinian citizens; the family received a picture of Yarden being driven on a Hamas motorcycle, with an obvious severe head wound, and have also advertised that Margit has advanced Parkinson’s Disease and needs medication.

“I can feel the Calderon mother’s pain, and I think maybe I’m not fighting as much or being as militant,” Zailer said. “Because I think my heart is too broken, you know?”

She added, “I’m trying to speak about them in present tense. I’m fighting the natural [instinct to say,] they lived, they used to. But I know they will come back. They were kidnapped alive and they’ll come back alive.”

Zailer, too, said she was concerned that a military operation could put her relatives at risk, though she said she hadn’t come up with an alternative.

“I’m not a politician so I don’t have the right answer,” she said. “I just want no casualties. … Someone needs to intervene, to mediate this differently. And Hamas needs to be taken down.”

Noya Dan and her grandmother, Carmela Dan, were very close. They were murdered together during Hamas’ attack on Israel. (Courtesy Hadas Calderon)

Calderon said she would advocate incessantly until her family is returned, calling on not just Israeli authorities to rescue them but also on the United States, which is trying to broker the situation; Qatar, which reportedly has discussed the hostages with Hamas; and more.

“I’m even asking Hamas: At this moment you have the opportunity to show that you still have humanity,” she said during the press conference.

“I want to believe that Hamas are taking care of them like they would their own children,” she said.

Exactly how much impact the press conference and the other components of the campaign, including “Kidnapped” posters that are being put up around the world, could have remains unclear. But Calderon said she would not relent until her children were home.

“The whole world has to scream,” she said. “Scream until the skies open, ‘Bring our children home.’ They are not soldiers. They have been picked up in their pajamas from their beds.”

The post Hamas killed her mother and niece. Her children are hostages in Gaza. appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Kyiv Rejects Putin’s ‘Absurd Ultimatum’ to End War

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Photo: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

i24 NewsRussia’s strongman President Vladimir Putin said he would end the war in Ukraine only if Kyiv agreed to drop its NATO ambitions and hand over the entirety of four provinces claimed by Moscow. Kyiv swiftly rejected the demands as tantamount to surrender.

Putin demands that Ukraine transfers to Russia four regions, including a 300,000 city of Kherson and 700,000 Zaporizhzhya as a “precondition” to “peace talks”. This man is delusional, and those in the West who speak of “negotiations” or “cease fire” are enemies of the free world.

— Sergej Sumlenny, LL.M (@sumlenny) June 14, 2024

“The conditions are very simple,” Putin said, listing them as the full withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from the entire territory of the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.

Putin’s maximalist conditions apparently reflect Moscow’s growing confidence that its forces have the upper hand in the war.

He restated his demand for Ukraine’s demilitarization and said an end to Western sanctions must also be part of a peace deal. He also repeated his call for Ukraine’s “denazification.”

“He is offering for Ukraine to admit defeat. He is offering for Ukraine to legally give up its territories to Russia. He is offering for Ukraine to sign away its geopolitical sovereignty,” said Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, rejecting the demands as “absurd.”

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Deadly Explosion Kills 8 IDF Soldiers in Rafah

Illustrative. Some rises after an Israeli strike as Israeli forces launch a ground and air operation in the eastern part of Rafah, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, May 7, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Hatem Khaled

i24 NewsEarly this morning, tragedy struck in the southern Gaza city of Rafah as eight Israeli soldiers lost their lives in a devastating explosion, marking the deadliest incident for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the region since January.

The IDF has confirmed the casualties, with one soldier identified as Captain Wassem Mahmoud, 23, a deputy company commander from Beit Jann in the Combat Engineering Corps’ 601st Battalion.

The names of the other seven soldiers will be released after their families have been notified.

According to initial reports from the IDF, the soldiers were traveling in a Namer armored combat engineering vehicle (CEV) as part of a convoy around 5 a.m., following a successful overnight operation targeting Hamas militants in the Tel Sultan neighborhood of Rafah. During the operation, troops under the 401st Armored Brigade reportedly neutralized approximately 50 gunmen.

The convoy was en route to buildings captured by the army for the soldiers to rest, when the Namer CEV, which was the fifth or sixth vehicle in the convoy, was struck by a powerful explosion. The nature of the explosion remains under investigation, with possibilities ranging from a pre-planted bomb to an improvised device placed on the vehicle by Hamas operatives.

Initial findings suggest that explosives stored on the exterior of the Namer CEV may have contributed to the severity of the blast. Normally, such explosives are designed to minimize harm to troops inside if detonated.

The IDF probe indicates there was no gunfire preceding the explosion, and the vehicle was not stationary at the time of the incident. The circumstances surrounding the tragedy have prompted intensified scrutiny into the safety protocols and operational procedures during military movements in hostile territories.

The deaths of these eight soldiers bring the total number of IDF casualties in recent ground operations against Hamas to 307. This figure includes a police officer killed during a recent hostage rescue operation and a civilian Defense Ministry contractor also slain in the conflict.

This is a developing story 

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U.S. Officials Fear Escalating Conflict Between Israel and Hezbollah

Israeli firefighters work following rocket attacks from Lebanon, amid ongoing cross-border hostilities between Hezbollah and Israeli forces, near the border on its Israeli side, June 13, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Avi Ohayon

i24 NewsRecent actions by both Israel and Hezbollah have sparked growing concerns among U.S. officials, who fear that the situation could escalate into a full-scale war, according to reports from CBS News.

The tension has intensified following a series of Israeli airstrikes on Lebanese territory, which some American authorities believe are laying the groundwork for a larger military operation.

Sources within the US government have expressed worries that such a move could trigger a conflict that might strain Israel’s alliance with Washington.

Hezbollah, in response to recent events including the assassination of senior commander Taleb Sami Abdullah, has escalated its own actions. The group has begun launching daily rocket attacks targeting northern Israeli communities since October 8, citing solidarity with Hamas amidst the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

US officials cited by CBS News have highlighted concerns over the potential unintended consequences of Hezbollah’s increased attacks. They fear that these actions could provoke Israel into launching a significant military assault, further exacerbating the volatile situation in the region.

The developments come amid ongoing international efforts to de-escalate tensions and prevent a wider conflict. Diplomatic channels remain active, with calls for restraint and dialogue from various quarters.

The United States, a key ally of Israel, has historically played a crucial role in mediating and influencing regional conflicts. Officials are closely monitoring the situation, emphasizing the importance of avoiding actions that could escalate tensions further.

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