Parents of soldiers held hostage
Parents of soldiers held hostageHostages and Missing Persons Families Forum headquarters

Parents of IDF soldiers who are being held by Hamas in Gaza met on Thursday evening for the first time with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 174 days after their children were abducted.

At the meeting, the parents demanded from Netanyahu an explanation of how he plans to bring their children home.

Following the meeting, three of the fathers gave a statement to the media. Ruby Chen, father of Itay whose body is being held by Hamas, said, "The meeting was with our new family. Within this family we may look different: There are Jews, there are Bedouin, there are haredim, there are rabbis, there are secular, there are religious. On the one hand we are very different, but on the other hand we have something strong that unites us and makes us very similar: We are Zionist citizens, Israelis, who have educated our children to contribute and have a meaningful military service."

"Unfortunately, what we heard from the Prime Minister was nothing new. The Prime Minister has a policy that he believes in and even after 174 days continues to follow his line. We tried to talk to the Prime Minister about a new concept: There is military security, but there is also civil security which is no less important to the citizens of Israel. The citizens must receive civil security."

Rabbi Doron Perez, father of Daniel Perez whose body is being held by Hamas, added, "In the meeting with the Prime Minister, who met for the first time with the soldiers' parents, I personally wanted to express to him this unimaginable transition after 163 days, from a family that wishes and prays for the son's return, until we learned that he was murdered on October 7.”

"We simply reflected to the Prime Minister and his wife Sara what kind of world we live in. When I asked my wife during Shabbat how she feels now that Daniel is no longer with us, she told me, 'Doron, I can't believe I'm saying this, but I feel a kind of relief. Now I no longer worry about him. Because he didn't suffer and he is not suffering.'"

Ronen Neutra, father of kidnapped soldier Omer Neutra, also spoke and said, "Omer is a proud Zionist who came here out of faith in the path and out of a desire to contribute to the country. We told the Prime Minister that the people of Israel are looking, seeing and thinking. Today we were at the Reception and Sorting Base (the base where new IDF soldiers are received and sorted into their respective corps or basic training bases), where a process begins in which every mother and father give up their children for the sake of the country. And I ask whether the parents who hand over their children to the army can trust the Israeli government and its leader to do everything to bring them home. We are already half a year into the process and our son is still not home. We asked the Prime Minister if there is a possibility that, God forbid, we would receive 134 Ron Arads."

"I, as an American citizen, also talked about the need to work with the US as the only true friend we have and despite the differences - to reach understandings," he concluded.

Netanyahu told the families during the meeting on Thursday, "I know that every passing day is hell for you. Your boys are our heroes, heroes of Israel. Just as we have returned 123 of our hostages as of today, I am committed to returning everyone, all of them. I will not leave anyone behind. I am personally dealing with this around the clock.”

He added, “Only continuation of the forceful military pressure that we have applied, and will yet apply, will return our hostages, will return everyone. Additionally, we are holding Hamas's strategic assets. This is an additional key to freeing our sons and daughters. We are holding the northern Gaza Strip and Khan Yunis. We have bisected the Strip and we are preparing to enter Rafah.”

“In order to return them all, it is necessary to prudently use all of these assets in the negotiations that I myself am conducting on a daily basis, in order to return them all and not just some of them," the Prime Minister said.