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‘Do the deal, do it today,’ says family of nine-year-old Hamas hostage

The aunt of a boy held captive with his mother and grandparents said it was time for the Israeli government to ensure their release

The aunt of a nine-year-old thought to be a hostage held by Hamas along with his mother and grandparents has called on the Israeli government to “do the deal” with the militants to ensure the release of those in captivity in Gaza.

Keren Munder, 54, her son Ohad Munder-Zichri, nine, and his grandparents, Ruthi and Avraha, aged 78, are believed to be among about 240 people abducted by the proscribed terror group when they stormed southern Israel on 7 October, killing 1,200 on what was the deadliest day in Israeli history.

On Monday, World Children’s Day, Ohad’s aunt, Osnat Meiri, told i that she doesn’t care about knowing the details of negotiations between the Israeli government and Hamas.

All the 53-year-old wants is for her relatives to be freed, after threats of execution by Hamas, which has also made unverified claims that 60 hostages have been killed in Israeli air strikes.

“Do the deal, do it today, do it tomorrow, do it,” said Ms Meiri, whose family was abducted from Nir Oz kibbutz. “Take how many [hostages] that you can and bring the children back.”

She said that World Children’s Day was “the perfect day to bring the children home”, after US and Israeli officials said a deal to free some of the hostages was edging closer.

The aunt said she worries about hostages being hurt during the military campaign in Gaza, which has seen the small and densely populated enclave facing Israel’s most powerful bombing since its conflict with the Palestinians began decades ago.

At least 13,000 Palestinians have been killed in the past six weeks, including at least 5,500 children, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run government.

Ohad and father (Photo: Credit Ohad's family)
Ohad and his father, Avi Zichri, who is now a ‘shattered man’ (Photo: Courtesy of the family)

Ms Meiri said she was in touch with Ohad’s father, Avi Zichri, and he is a “shattered man”. His son turned nine in Gaza on 23 October.

“I cannot imagine how it feels to go to sleep every day without your wife and child,” she said.

Over the weekend, she added, Mr Zichri had accompanied her to the grandparents’ home in Nir Oz, which Ohad and his mother had been visiting when they were abducted on 7 October.

With explosions across the border in Gaza sounding loudly in the background, she said it was “heartbreaking” to watch him collect some of his son’s belongings.

Ms Meiri called for a ceasefire to get the hostages out and said: “These children are there in Gaza and they are hearing the explosions and you know how they will return from Gaza… they will be shattered, they have endured so much.

“We need it to stop, today, tomorrow, we need them to come home because they can’t keep [going] much longer.”

The Israeli government says the offensive improves the chances of recovering hostages, perhaps via a mediated prisoner exchange.

But speaking of how the bodies of two hostages were recovered in Gaza last week, Ms Meiri said: “It’s very worrying that people are starting to die there and no one is assuring me that my family and Ohad are okay.”

The families of Israeli hostages were on Monday holding a protest in Tel Aviv before meeting with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of the war cabinet in the evening.

The relatives and thousands of their supporters arrived in Jerusalem on Saturday at the end of a five-day march to confront the government over the plight of those taken captive in Gaza.

An estimated 20,000 marchers, including well-wishers who joined the procession along the main Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, want to put pressure on the government “to do everything they can to bring the hostages back”, said Noam Alon, 25, clutching a photograph of his abducted girlfriend, Inbar, Reuters reported.

Israel is hopeful that a significant number of hostages could be released by Hamas “in coming days”, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Herzog said in an interview on Sunday on ABC’s This Week.

Ohad and uncle (credit: Ohad family)
Ohad and his uncle Roy Monder, who was murdered on 7 October (Photo: Courtesy of the family)

“I’m hopeful we can have a deal in the coming days,” Mr Herzog said.

Reuters on 15 November reported that Qatari mediators had been seeking a deal between Israel and Hamas to exchange 50 hostages in return for a three-day ceasefire, citing an official briefed on the talks. At the time, the official said general outlines had been agreed but Israel had still been negotiating details.

“I don’t know if it’s smarter for the army to keep fighting, if it’s smarter for the army to stop fighting, I don’t know what Hamas want from me… I just want them to talk it over, all the people that are controlling this world,” Ms Meiri said.

“I ask them today to just make the right decision.”

Ohad’s uncle, Roy Monder – his mother’s brother – was killed during the massacre, and his home was burnt down.

“We buried him without his parents, without his sister,” said Ms Meiri, his cousin. “They don’t even know that he is dead.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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