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Hostage release timeline is delayed, extending an excruciating wait for their families

KIBBUTZ NIR OZ, Israel (JTA) — Israel has begun making preparations for the care of traumatized hostages who are freed from Gaza, as the country reaches a pivotal moment in its six-week war with Hamas.

But confusion reigned late Wednesday about the timeline for the truce that would see the release of at least 50 hostages, including children, their mothers and the elderly. After Israeli officials suggested that some hostages would be released on Thursday, Israel’s national security council chair said the first release was not expected until at least Friday.

The tweaked timeline is shaking the delicate optimism that had set in for a country that has been consumed by grief and anxiety since Oct. 7, when Hamas attacked southern Israel, killing 1,200 and taking roughly 250 hostages.

Officials say they still expect the deal to be finalized, and top Israeli security officials are in Qatar to sign off on the agreement. Sources tell Israeli media that one source of the delay could be disagreements between Qatar and Hamas.

Some reports suggest that Israel has gotten a list of the first hostages expected to be released, though whether that was true was not clear. Either way, exactly who is on the list won’t be released publicly in advance, to help families manage their hope, officials said on Wednesday.

But U.S. President Joe Biden said he expected Abigail Mor Idan, a 3-year-old who was taken alone after her parents were murdered, to be in the first group. Her fourth birthday is Friday.

Soldiers who have been tasked with escorting the released hostages back into Israel were given detailed instructions by the Israel Defense Forces. The instructions, which circulated on social media, tell the soldiers to ask the children if they are hot or thirsty, to ask permission before hugging or lifting the children and to defer questions about where their family members are until later.

For the families of the hostages, the news that some could be released is complicated. The families have operated as a single lobbying force since shortly after Oct. 7. Now, if the release happens as anticipated, they will be divided into those whose hopes have been fulfilled and those who are still waiting.

Natali Madmon’s 77-year-old mother, Ofelia Roitman, was abducted from Kibbutz Nir Oz on Oct. 7, along with 15 of her neighbors. She was injured at the time and was taken without her epilepsy medication; now, she could well be among the 50 hostages expected to be released during the four days of the planned truce.

Madmon said she had thought about the order in which the hostages are released. “I’ll answer what my mother would say: She’d want the children out first, for sure,” she said. “I hope they won’t forget the elderly either, who are kind of in a second childhood.”

But she said she would not dismantle a display she had set up in Nir Oz’s dining hall, showing all of the kibbutz’s missing and dead as if they were seated at the tables, until everyone was accounted for.

“If they don’t give back the hostages the dining hall will remain like this forever,” Madmon said.

The mailboxes at Kibbutz Nir Oz are marked red for those who were murdered on Oct. 7, black for those taken hostage. (Deborah Danan)

Some in Israel oppose the hostage deal, saying that it rewards terror and incentivizes Hamas to take captives in the future. They also are concerned that a pause in fighting could allow Hamas to regroup and evade the IDF’s advances.

Madmon said she wasn’t worried that a truce could compromise Israel’s stated mission to destroy Hamas.

“They should give whatever needs to be given to make sure the hostages get home,” she said. “And only after they should deal with everything else. I have total confidence that our army will know what to do then.”

Renana Jacob’s two sons were taken hostage from Nir Oz. The last thing she heard her younger son, Yigal, say by phone was, “You can’t take me. I’m too young.” He turned 13 while in captivity, appearing at one point in a video shared by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Jacob hasn’t seen the video. On Wednesday, she said, “I am very hopeful my sons will return soon — and hopeful that all hostages will be released in the near future.”

Benny Avigad’s brother was killed at Nir Oz. No one in his family was taken hostage, but he said the kibbutz was like a family.

“I want all the people to come back,” he said. “Here we know everyone, from the 9 months old to the 85 year old. It’s a small community. So we will be maybe a little happy for a moment, the children and the wives are coming back, but what about the rest?”

He added, “For us, the living, this is the most important thing. We will not continue thinking about coming back here until the situation is finished and all the kidnapped are back here.”

Families of the Israelis held kidnapped by Hamas terrorists in Gaza march along with hundreds of Israelis towards the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem, as part of a protest calling for the immediate release of the hostages, Nov. 18, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Their comments echo that of the group that has been fighting for the captives, spearheading a global effort to keep their names and faces in public view through “Kidnapped” posters, demonstrations and creative public displays.

“There is no victory until every last hostage returns home,” the group said in a statement late Wednesday. “The Hostages and Missing Families Forum is working to support the release process of those now returning, pressing on until total liberation comes. We will not rest until every individual is home safely, after 47 days deprived of freedom and peace.”

Shortly after the statement, the Israeli government announced the delay. If hostages are released on Friday, it would be after 49 days in captivity.

The post Hostage release timeline is delayed, extending an excruciating wait for their families appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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British Columbia’s Jewish community is outraged after MLA Selina Robinson is removed from cabinet over remarks about Israel

Leaders of the British Columbia Jewish community have reacted with dismay to the decision by David Eby, the province’s premier, to remove Selina Robinson from her position as minister of post-secondary education and future skills on Feb. 5 due to remarks she made the previous week during an online discussion. While speaking on a panel […]

The post British Columbia’s Jewish community is outraged after MLA Selina Robinson is removed from cabinet over remarks about Israel appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Gaza Border Residents Demand A Return Home, Four Months Into War

A damaged building lies in ruins, following an infiltration by Hamas terrorists who attacked Israel at a kibbutz in Kfar Aza, Israel, Nov. 8, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

Israelis from the Gaza Envelope are calling on the government to approve their return home, roughly four months since the war’s outbreak on October 7.

The head of the Scot Negev Regional Council, Tamir Idan, said outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, “We demand a clear statement from the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister that it is safe to return to the area. Until then we are not moving from here.”

The heads of the other regional councils in the Gaza area joined Idan outside the Prime Minister’s office, where they slept last night in protest.

The regional leaders say that members of the Gaza border towns should be allowed to return to the areas if they wish, rather than being forced to live in hotels. An internal plan is set to be presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in the near future.

The heads claim it is safe to return home, and are demanding that the government sign off on such a statement so residents can do so. Their protest comes as the government extended the funds allocated for their stay at hotels until July.

Following the October 7 massacre by Hamas terrorists, when they stormed southern Israel, murdering over 1,200 and taking hostage more than 240, tens of thousands of Israelis from the area were uprooted from their homes and placed in hotels in the Jerusalem area, Eilat, the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea region. Since then, they have been living there full time, with makeshift schools set up for children and activities to keep everyone occupied. The move has also led local businesses to be completely shuttered.

Some Israelis have already moved back to their towns, which is technically allowed but under their own risk — rockets still fly near daily from Gaza and the IDF is operating within the Gaza Strip, which is minutes away from certain border towns.

The plan presented by the regional heads, they say, would mean that the towns are technically safe to return to, and therefore the risk falls under the government and the military.

This is as tens of thousands of Israelis from northern towns also remain out of their homes, with no current timeline for return due to the constant threat of Hezbollah missiles and the potential the war extends to the north.

The post Gaza Border Residents Demand A Return Home, Four Months Into War first appeared on

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Australian Politician Says ‘Jewish Lobby’ Uses ‘Tentacles’ to ‘Influence Power’

Australian Greens MP Jenny Leong speaks at a Palestine Justice Movement event in Australia on Sunday, February 4, 2024. Source: Twitter/X

Video of a left-wing Australian politician discussing how “the Jewish lobby and the Zionist lobby” are using their “tentacles” to “influence power” went viral on Tuesday, sparking backlash from the Australian Jewish community.

Jenny Leong, an Australia Greens member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, spoke on a panel for the Palestine Justice Movement in December to promote boycotting Israel.

“The Jewish lobby and the Zionist lobby are infiltrating into every single aspect of what is ethnic community groups,” Leong said during the panel. “They rock up and they’re part of the campaign,” and “they offer solidarity.” 

She continued: “They [the Jewish and Zionist lobby] rock up to every community meeting and event to offer that connection because their tentacles reach into the areas that try and influence power and I think that we need to call that out and expose that.”

Stop what you’re doing and listen to the despicable remarks of @Greens MP @jennyleong , in which she accuses Jews of having “tentacles” which they use to try and influence power.

Leong has plumbed new and dangerous depths by using one of the oldest and darkest antisemitic tropes…

— NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (@NSWJBD) February 6, 2024

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, which is the representative of Jews who live in New South Wales, called the remarks “despicable,” adding that “Leong has plumbed new and dangerous depths by using one of the oldest and darkest antisemitic tropes to accuse Jews of covertly manipulating civic life. She has outrageously suggested that there is a sinister or evil purpose associated with Jews undertaking the most normal of activities – interacting with other Australians.”

Josh Burns, a Labor member of the Australian House of Representatives, said her comments were “a direct attack on Jewish people in Australia” and that “she should unreservedly apologize.” He also called on the Australian Greens to “take responsibility and demonstrate that Jewish people in Australia are safe and respected by their Party.”

The right-leaning Australian Jewish Association wrote on X that “Every credible political party must put the Greens last. Every non-racist fair minded person must put the Greens last.”

In response to the criticism, Leong apologized for specifically using the word “tentacles,” but not for her message. She said: “Speaking on a panel during a two-hour-long event last year, I acknowledge that I used a word at one point that was an inappropriate descriptor for the influence of groups backing Netanyahu’s genocidal attacks in Gaza and the ongoing occupation – I apologise that this has caused offence.” 

She continued: “It is incredibly telling that after a conversation where myself and other speakers made countless mentions of the genocidal attacks and occupation occurring in Gaza right now, that two months later more focus isn’t being put on the deaths of over 26,000 people, many of them children.”

Her comments and apology come amid increasing concern over antisemitism on the far-left, which has celebrated violent resistance against Israel since October 7, when Hamas invaded the country, killed 1,200 people, and kidnapped more than 240 more.

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