WASHINGTON – Members of Congress put aside their partisanship on Wednesday to meet with families of hostages held by Hamas, who called on them to continue their urgency in getting more hostages released.
Hamas and Israel had released more than 250 hostages and prisoners since the temporary pause started on Friday, and both the representatives and the families agreed that getting the remaining hostages from Hamas released is the “number one priority.”
“We are here representing hostages. We are here representing lives and we don’t have the answers, but what we’re here to do is tell the stories and have you continue to tell these stories, please, and bring us back until [the hostages] are home,” said Liz Hirsch Naftali, the aunt of Abigail Mor Edan, the 4-year-old hostage who was returned to Israel Sunday.
Ruby Chen was one of the family members at the roundtable still waiting to hear from his child. He wore a t-shirt customized with a photo of his son Itay Chen, a 19-year-old American-Israeli citizen who went missing while serving at the Israel Defense Forces base on the Gaza border. Ruby said that he believes that Itay was among those being held hostage by Hamas and called on the entire international community to bring awareness to the hostages’ stories and get them released.
“We urge the international community– this is not a U.S. issue, it’s an international community, humanitarian issue, that all of the international community needs to get behind in order to solve this problem,” Ruby Chen said. He thanked the Biden administration and Qatar government for the hostage release deal, which included a humanitarian pause, and said that “it gives us [families] hope.”
On Tuesday, The House unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution calling on Hamas to release all hostages, but Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the committee, said there’s still more to do even after the hostages are returned.
“It is so important that your story is told,” Meeks said. “And it is even more important that we don’t stop until your loved ones are returned, and when they are returned, the story still must be told.”
Orna Neutra, the mother of Omer Neutra, a 22-year-old hostage still being held by Hamas, wore a t-shirt with a picture of Omer as she urged representatives to continue putting pressure on the militant group to release the hostages.
“There has been some progress this week, but Omer is still not with us,” she said. “And the clock continues to tick, and not in our favor.”