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Families of Israeli hostages call for EU support to bring loved ones home – POLITICO

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BRUSSELS — Relatives of Israelis taken hostage in Gaza held up photos of their loved ones during a gathering of hundreds of European politicians and officials outside the European Parliament, in a massive solidarity show by the EU with Israel on Wednesday.

“We are here (…) with all of you to express our solidarity, to condemn the appalling acts of terror and murder and to demand the immediate release of the hostages,” Parliament President Roberta Metsola told the audience, among whom was the President of the Commission, Ursula. von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel and Israeli Ambassador to the EU Haim Regev.

Shira Havron, a 27-year-old Israeli film student who was also in attendance, told POLITICO that 11 members of her family were missing.

She lost contact with them around 9am on Saturday when militants from Hamas – a Palestinian group designated as a terrorist organization by the EU – attacked their kibbutz near Gaza called Be’eri. The ages of her kidnapped family members, including her aunts, uncles and little cousins, range from 67 to just three years old.

“Since we’ve just heard rumors, people who saw something, or people who know someone who saw something,” she said.

Havron said the EU “definitely” had the power to influence the situation. “They can pressure the Israeli government to do something, they can pressure Hamas,” she said, adding that many of the 11 family members have dual European and Israeli citizenship . “So we’re hoping to get some help from that angle as well,” Havron added.

“One of my uncle’s phones was in Gaza,” she added.

Jonathan Guttman, 31, said his cousin Evyatar David, 23, was taken hostage in Gaza. David was present at the music festival in southern Israel, where more than 260 bodies were found, Guttman said.

“I appreciate the (EU) support, we just need to translate it into action,” said Guttman, who just completed his medical degree in the Czech Republic.

“What I believe is simply the obvious reality: the hostages should not be… held without any communication, without any guarantee of their safety,” he said, adding that his family saw a video on social media of his cousin taken handcuffed to Gaza. . One of David’s friends at the music festival was killed, he said.

Havron and Guttman were on their way to meet Michel when they spoke to POLITICO outside Parliament after the event.

” What is happening ? »

“This is not the time for Whataboutism,” Metsola told the crowd, which included European commissioners, MEPs, officials and members of the Jewish community.

“We need to be clear about what we are talking about. It’s the worst form of terror,” she said.

Speakers played the Israeli national anthem and the EU anthem; Many people in the crowd sobbed throughout Metsola’s speech and the music. Everyone fell silent to mark a “solemn moment” in memory of the victims.

On Tuesday, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell – who comes from a socialist family – condemned the Israeli attack on Gaza, saying that some of its actions – such as cutting off supplies of food and water – were contrary to international law, and declared that the Palestinian people were suffering too.

Some far-left politicians in Parliament criticized Metsola’s decision to focus the event solely on Israeli victims – rather than Palestinians killed in Gaza after Israel launched a retaliatory war against Hamas and besieged the Strip of Gaza, cutting off water, electricity and food supplies. .

Two far-left Irish MPs, Clare Daly and Mick Wallace, wrote to all MEPs ahead of the event to complain about the way the event had been organized. “A failure of our Parliament, on an occasion like this, to also recognize the tragedy of the loss of lives of innocent Palestinian civilians, including children, would be nothing short of inhumane,” the two men wrote.

Senior MEPs representing six of Parliament’s seven political groups attended the event, but the left group’s leadership was absent.

“Our group is in Madrid this week, so we are on a study day. I’m sure one of our co-presidents would have left if he had been here,” said a spokesperson for the left-wing group.

Parliament plans to draft a resolution provisionally titled: “Hamas’ despicable terrorist attacks against Israel” when it meets in Strasbourg next week. However, the agenda will not be finalized until Thursday.



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