As hundreds of families watch and wait to receive information about their loved ones who have disappeared since Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7, fear has arisen among many people.
But that also applies to hope.
Omri Shtivi — whose brother Idan Shtivi has been missing since that fateful day after he volunteered to photograph the Nova festival — told The Daily Beast that while his family was tormented while waiting for information on whether Idan was in the captivity is dead or alive, you try to be positive.
“We are very, very sad, very depressed about the situation and hopeful that we will hear something from him,” Omri said. “We are waiting for you. We have great hope and are of course thinking about all possible scenarios.”
The heartache caused to families and loved ones waiting to find out the fate of their loved ones coincides with a lack of information from governments scrambling to find information about hostages – and a way to get them home safely bring to.
Israeli and U.S. officials have admitted in recent days that they have no clear idea of how many hostages there are, where they are or in what condition they are being held – a position that puts Washington and its allies on the backfoot brings to save her.
Omri and his family have contacted the police and military to try to locate Idan, he said. But so far the search has revealed further questions.
“They took the information they needed to find him. And there are a lot of bodies that they are trying to discover,” said Omri Shtivi, adding that now the families of the missing have come together and are working on Telegram and other social media channels to communicate and share information about them last known details of their missing relatives.
The Israeli government has set up an office to work with the hostages’ families, although the next steps are still unclear. The Office of the Abducted and Missing Persons Task Force, led by Brig. Gal Hirschwho previously commanded the 91st Division, responsible for Israel’s northern border, and held positions in counterterrorism and paratroop units, have contacted the families of the suspected hostages, an Israeli official told The Daily Beast.
Omri and his family have contacted Hirsch and his team to obtain information about Idan’s whereabouts. But he said they heard next to nothing.
“We didn’t get any information from him,” Omri said.
Some families hear news about the fate of their relatives from Hamas itself. Hamas released a video on Monday of one of its hostages, Mia Shem, 21, claiming that it was taking good care of her by providing her with medical care. It is not clear when the footage was taken and whether it is authentic.
Keren Shem, Mia’s mother, implored the international community to work to bring her daughter home.
“I didn’t know until yesterday whether she was dead or alive. I just knew she might get kidnapped.” Keren Shem said Tuesday. “Yesterday I saw my baby on TV. I saw that she was alive…I could see that she was shot in the shoulder.”
And while the video could give families a glimmer of hope, the fact that Hamas is releasing footage of hostages and hinting at possible deals is actually quite cruel, said an Israeli official who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity .
The publication shows “that they are putting great psychological and political pressure on the families to begin a negotiation process,” the Israeli official told The Daily Beast, declining to reveal information about possible negotiations.
“He was my everything.”
The White House National Security Council did not respond to a request for comment on the authenticity of the video or its significance.
Even though Hamas’s social media posts are newsworthy, many families are grappling with the devastating reality that their loved ones who tried to escape the terror died in the process.
As Ori Siegler and his friend Mor Cohen tried to escape Hamas by dodging bullets as they left the festival on Saturday, Cohen died from a gunshot wound to the head, Siegler told The Daily Beast. They drove away, turning around and dodging cars full of armed men when he realized his friend wasn’t going to make it, Siegler said.
“While I was pulling the trigger on the engine, my friend just said to me, ‘Oh my God, I’m bleeding badly.’ “When I look at him, I see a hole in the middle of his head,” Siegler said. “‘Holy shit. No, no way, no way, no way,” Ori said he remembered thinking.
Siegler said he then tried to put pressure on the wound to stay alive. “I tried to keep him with me,” he said. “But I could not.”
“He was my everything,” said Siegler. “All I can think of is, ‘How the hell am I supposed to move on now?'”
However, there may still be some hope for many families waiting to hear about their missing loved ones. Israeli authorities said Monday they had contacted the families of 199 hostages.
But – as has often been the case with information about the hostages and people who disappeared on October 7 – this is not necessarily the final number, also because it has been a difficult process to find out who is already dead and who is an Israeli hostage official told The Daily Beast.
“No, it’s not the final number,” the official said. “There are still some bodies that have not yet been identified. They are in Israel, but because the bodies are so damaged, it was a struggle.”
Hamas confirmed in a video release on Monday that there may be 250 or more hostages currently in the Gaza Strip, according to an interpretation and translation of the video by MSNBC.
American officials have acknowledged in recent days that the U.S. government does not know exactly how many hostages there are, but that there are a “very small” number of American hostages. Last week, the National Security Council announced that 14 Americans were missing.
Hamas has also claimed that some hostages were killed when Israel launched attacks in the Gaza Strip. It is not clear whether the claim is true.
The apparently immense intelligence gap about the hostages comes as Hamas has begun to release indications that it might be interested in some kind of negotiation. While Hamas has said it wants to exchange hostages for Hamas members held captive in Israel, Hamas released another video on Monday saying Hamas could release hostages if “conditions on the ground are right.”
“At the moment there is no possibility of negotiations.”
In a speech described by Hamas as “important,” Hamas spokesman Abu Obaida claimed the group may be willing to release some non-Israeli hostages. According to an MSNBC interpretation of the video, the speaker in the video appeared to distinguish between hostages who are foreigners – and who were said not necessarily to be parties to the conflict – and Israelis.
U.S. officials around the world have successfully negotiated deals for citizens wrongfully detained or held hostage. But the current situation — hundreds of hostages are being held in Gaza, scattered throughout a densely populated area while Israel bombs the narrow area — is far more complicated than previous efforts, former hostage negotiators tell The Daily Beast. The fact that there are citizens in dozens of countries suspected of being held hostage also complicates possible further steps.
The Israel Defense Forces claimed on Tuesday to have killed Osama Mazini, who Israel says was responsible for Hamas prisoners.
There have been indications from Israeli officials that negotiations may not be on the table for some time. Families of hostages have been angered in recent days when the head of Israel’s National Security Council, Tzachi Hanegbi, said the Israeli government would not do so Negotiate with Hamas. “There is no possibility of negotiations at the moment,” he said on Saturday, acknowledging that Israel had “failed its mission” to protect citizens from terrorists.
As of Saturday, there were no active negotiations with the terrorist organization, he said.
The U.S. government has begun working with partners in the region to locate hostages and has reached out to all contacts who might be able to help bring the hostages home safely, a State Department official previously told The Daily Beast.
Hamas’ apparent pressure campaign comes just as President Joe Biden plans to visit Israel on Wednesday to show his support as fears grow that the war between Israel and Hamas will lead to a broader conflict in the region could.
However, an important part of the Middle East trip has already been canceled. Jordan on Tuesday canceled a planned summit between Biden and Palestinian, Egyptian and Jordanian leaders, hours after a devastating explosion at a Gaza hospital killed more than 500 Palestinians, according to Health Ministry reports.
However, the president’s visit to Israel was still ongoing on Sunday and will coincide with US Secretary of State Tony Blinken’s turbulent trip to seven countries in recent days, including two trips to Israel and a trip to Qatar, helping the United States and Israel is working to work out possible hostage negotiations.
The trip reflects growing pressure on the Biden administration and its allies to use complex levers of power and diplomacy as Israel vows to eliminate Hamas in the coming days and Washington works to deter enemies from expanding the conflict.
Iran, which has supported Hamas for years, is warning of regional escalation if Israeli attacks in Gaza continue. In a speech on Tuesday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei blamed the United States for the current tensions and also threatened retaliation.
The great attention from Washington could already be causing a stir behind the scenes. Israel had planned one Ground invasion CBS News reported that this could potentially cause delays due to increasing diplomacy in the region. Walla, a news site in Israel, reported a ground invasion Gaza will be delayed, probably until after Biden’s visit.
Biden’s trip will send a signal to aggressors in the region that escalating clashes with Israel – and expanding the war – is a fool’s errand, the Israeli official said.
Biden’s trip is “a strong message to the countries around us that … the United States stands behind Israel – in terms of security but also in terms of deterrence,” the Israeli official said.