With the Israeli government fighting in Gaza to eliminate Hamas, many people whose loved ones were abducted during the Oct. 7 attack in Israel are fearful that the intensified fighting will put the hostages in even more danger.
Jon Polin’s 23-year-old son, Hersh Goldberg-Polin, is believed to be among the hostages. Mr. Polin said he would have preferred that the government exhaust all other options to release his son and the other hostages before the Israeli military invaded, but he also admitted that he would likely think differently if his son had not been abducted on Oct. 7.
On that day, Hersh Goldberg-Polin was at a music festival. When Hamas militants arrived, he lost part of his arm to a grenade blast, an injury documented in a video of him being loaded into a Hamas truck.
“I understand the Israeli government’s sense that we must go in and take action against Hamas,” Jon Polin said, but added, “The best option for everybody in the world is for there to be a diplomatic, humanitarian release of all hostages.”
Daniel Lifshitz’s grandmother Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, was one of the four hostages who have been released by Hamas. But his joy at being reunited with her was quickly overshadowed by concern for his grandfather Oded Lifshitz, 83, who is still believed to be held.
The couple, both peace activists from Nir Oz, a kibbutz near the Gaza border, were abducted when their community was overrun in the attacks.
Since Israel began sending ground troops into Gaza on Friday, Mr. Lifshitz’s fear for his grandfather has intensified. “I don’t get any justification for how an act of war can help the hostages,” he said, worrying that, instead, “it will make things much more difficult.”
Mr. Lifshitz said he would prefer for the government to take responsibility for its failures on Oct. 7, put more pressure on Qatar to negotiate the hostages’ release, and “take any deal offered on the table,” no matter the cost.
The families of the hostages are holding near daily protests. On Thursday in Tel Aviv, dozens of survivors of the Oct. 7 attack sat in silence in a central square wearing red blindfolds, their hands bound with plastic wrist ties, as part of a campaign to keep the fate of the hostages in the public eye.
There has been limited progress in securing the hostages’ freedom. Two were released by Hamas on Oct. 20 and two on Oct. 23 after negotiations mediated by Qatar. A fifth hostage, a soldier, was rescued by Israeli forces during a special operation on Monday. According to the Israeli military, one of the goals of the ground activity in Gaza is to help rescue the hostages.
Yehuda Beinin — whose daughter Liat Beinin Atzili, and son-in-law, Aviv Atzili, both 49, are believed to be hostages — returned this week from a visit to the United States to speak with lawmakers and others about the hostage crisis.
Mr. Beinin said he strongly believed that “Israel has to complete its mission of destroying Hamas and anything that’s connected to it.” While he said he didn’t know enough to say whether the ground invasion would help return his family members, he trusted that the United States was advising Israel to reduce civilian casualties, which could “otherwise complicate the hostage situation.”
It has been nearly a month since most families have heard from loved ones who disappeared on Oct. 7. “Unfortunately the clock is ticking,” Mr. Lifshitz said. With the war escalating, he said that he “begs for restraint and caution” and that he hopes that “both sides do all they possibly can to release the hostages.”
Isabel Kershner contributed reporting from Tel Aviv.