A month after Hamas terrorists attacked Israel, a devastated aunt is uniting her family to raise awareness about the hostages still held by Hamas, a pressure campaign she hopes will lead to the release of her teenage nephew, who she sees as a son.
Ofir Engel, a high school student, was taken hostage by Hamas terrorists from Kibbutz Be’eri, where he was visiting his girlfriend’s family on October 7. More than 100 people in the kibbutz of just over a thousand were killed, according to JTA.
“I want every father and mother in the world to close their eyes for two minutes and imagine that they put their children to bed safely in their houses, and in the morning people come in and take them away, and rape them, and cut their heads away, and kill them in their beds,” said Yael Engel Lichi, Engel’s aunt. “That’s what they have to imagine.”
WATCH: After one month without teenager Ofir Engel, family asks world to put more pressure on Hamas
“One month passed, and we’re still here,” Yael said from her brother’s house. “We are all together, all the time, around the clock. Giving them strength.”
After the terrorist attack commenced, the young Engel was giving frequent updates to his family from the bomb shelter in his girlfriend’s house before terrorists broke in and took the family outside.
Lichi said she remains hopeful her nephew is still alive because she was told his cell phone pinged from Gaza on October 8, the day after the attack.
Engel, a Dutch citizen, has received attention from the Dutch government who met with Engel’s father last week. According to Yael, her father also met with the Qatari Ambassador to the Netherlands. Qatar, the country that hosts Hamas leadership, has been actively involved with facilitating hostage negotiations.
Hamas is believed to have roughly 240 hostages in Gaza — the terrorist group says dozens have been hit by Israeli airstrikes as it fights to eliminate them from existence. Thus far, Hamas has released just four hostages, and one has been rescued.
Israel says there will be no discussions about a ceasefire until all the hostages are released.
Yael’s family has been spending extra time together since tragedy struck — and says it’s been impossible to think about anything else.
“Every evening she wants to talk about Ofir,” Yael said about her 12-year-old daughter. “Is he eating? Is he warm? I cannot do it.”
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