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Six months later, families of US hostages in Gaza are stuck in “ambiguous trauma.”

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JERUSALEM – Families of U.S. citizens held hostage by Hamas since the brutal terrorist attack in southern Israel six months ago expressed frustration this week that mediation talks have repeatedly stalled and failed to resolve their concerns to bring relatives home. Some also said they were disappointed that political interests appeared to be a higher priority than saving lives.

“We live in a different galaxy, we are all families and every day is a decision to get up and pretend we are human,” said Rachel Goldberg-Polin, mother of Hersh Goldberg-Polin, 23, who is from the Hamas was hijacked from a music festival taking place on October 7 near the border with Gaza, Fox News Digital said in an interview.

The Chicago-born mother of three, who moved to Israel with her husband Jon and their children in 2008, said: “We run to the ends of the earth, and we work as hard as we can, and we talk to everyone.” It is possible to overturn the stone that will bring our loved ones home.

“We are in a constant state of trauma, terror, torment, fear, misery, it is constant. There is not a single second in which we do not feel trauma,” said Goldberg-Polin, who last heard from her son minutes before his arm was torn off by terrorists.


Goldberg-Polin family

Goldberg-Polin family (Courtesy of the Goldberg-Polin family)

Grisly footage shows him clutching his bloodied arm as he is loaded into a truck with several other hostages before being driven into captivity in Gaza. Since then there has been no sign that he is still alive or that he is among the dead.

Goldberg-Polin said it was impossible to describe the feeling of being stuck in such “ambiguous trauma.” She also expressed hope that those negotiating her son’s release would “do what’s right for people, even if it’s not always right for them.”

“I want to pray and be optimistic and hopeful that our leaders will be leaders,” she said. “Being a leader means doing the right thing for people, even if it’s not always the right thing for the leaders. It takes a lot of courage and selflessness and tenacity and bravery, and that’s what I wish for the leaders of all these different entities that are trying to get involved.

Representatives from the United States, Egypt and Qatar, as well as several other countries, have been involved in negotiations since the war in Gaza began last October, mediating between Israel and the Iran-backed Hamas organization. Triggered by a mass attack in which thousands of Palestinian terrorists infiltrated Israel’s southern border, the rampage left more than 1,200 people dead and around 250 others, mostly civilians, taken hostage.

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Sagui Dekel-Chen

Sagui Dekel-Chen is being held in Gaza. Chen was kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Oz by terrorists on October 7, 2023. Photo: Dekel-Chen family.

As part of a week-long ceasefire last November, Hamas released more than 100 hostages, and in recent weeks those survivors have spoken out about what they endured, including beatings, sexual assaults and, in some cases, imprisonment in underground cages. The hostages were denied food, water and proper medical care, according to some of those now at home.

Some 135 hostages remain captive, including eight U.S. citizens, and Hamas is refusing to allow international aid agencies to visit or care. While the deaths of three of the eight US hostages have been confirmed based on information gathered by the Israeli army, the families of those who may still be alive fear that time to rescue their loved ones is quickly running out.

Jonathan Dekel-Chen, whose son Sagui Dekel-Chen, 35, was kidnapped from his home on Kibbutz Nir Oz, told Fox News Digital how distraught he was at not knowing his son’s fate.

“These days, weeks and months have had ups and downs, especially downs, but I’m trying not to get into an emotional roller coaster because then it would just be impossible to function,” he said. “We just have to get up every day and try to find every possible means to bring closer the day when our loved ones return.”

Connecticut-born Dekel-Chen said he had been in close contact with the U.S. government “at all levels” since the start of the war and described the support as “extraordinary.”

“We had regular meetings with the national security adviser, the chief negotiator and with senior people at the CIA,” he said. “They have been as transparent as possible with us about the U.S. position in the negotiations and what they are trying to do.”


Woman holds sign

A woman holds a sign during a protest on October 19 in Tel Aviv, Israel, calling for the release of hostages kidnapped by Hamas on October 7. (Amir Levy/Getty Images)

Dekel-Chen said he recently spent two hours meeting at the White House with President Biden. He also said he experienced “wall-to-wall solidarity” in Congress, including from those who criticized Israel’s actions during the war.

However, Dekel-Chen said: “We can only determine whether enough is being done when the 134 people are back in Israel.”

In addition to Hersh Goldberg-Polin and Sagui Dekel-Chen, other US citizens held captive in Gaza include 64-year-old Keith Siegel, who was taken hostage with his wife Aviva from their home on Kibbutz Kfar Aza-Aviva was released during the ceasefire in November; Edan Alexander, 19, an Israeli soldier originally from Tenafly, New Jersey; and Omer Neutra, another soldier from Long Island, New York; Three other US citizens – Judy Weinstein and her husband Gad Haggai, and 19-year-old Itay Chen – are believed to have been murdered by Hamas, which still holds their bodies.

US hostages in Gaza.

American hostages held in Gaza include (from left) Hersh Goldberg-Polin, Itay Chen, Sagui Dekel-Chen, Edan Alexander, Omer Neutra, Judy Weinstein and her husband Gad Haggai, and Keith Siegel. Weinstein, Haggai and Chen are believed to have been murdered by Hamas, which still holds their bodies. (Courtesy of the families)

Ruby Chen, Itay’s father, said he believed “being a U.S. citizen would provide additional protection for Itay” and that he organized a demonstration and news conference immediately after the Oct. 7 attacks to draw attention to the plight of the U.S to make people aware. Not long after, the families of the U.S. citizens were contacted by representatives of the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, he said. Since then, they have been in constant contact with members of the administration, who have made every effort to speak and meet with them.

“On Friday [after the attack]”We had a phone call with the president that was supposed to last 15 minutes, but he stayed on the call for more than an hour and listened to everyone,” Chen said. “It was clear that a higher priority for him was to do everything possible to get all the hostages free.”

But Chen – who was informed on March 12 that Itay was murdered on October 7 and his body was taken to Gaza – said he was no longer convinced that the U.S. approach to releasing the detainees was effective.

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Italy was seen smiling while wearing an IDF uniform

IDF Sgt. Itay Chen served on the Gaza border. His father was recently informed that Itay was murdered on October 7, 2023 and his body was taken to Gaza by Hamas terrorists. (IDF)

“It has now been six months and the U.S. working hypothesis has not yet gotten us to the point where the eight detained U.S. citizens have been released,” the New York native said, explaining that the U.S. is convinced that Israel is in able to reach an agreement to release the US citizens along with the Israeli citizens.

“The US government should ask itself what the best course of action is – are they still confident that Israel [is] “Do everything possible to get U.S. citizens out of harm’s way?” said Chen, who also received a condolence call from the president. “I believe that the U.S. government has both a legal and moral obligation to do everything it can to get U.S. citizens out of danger and back to their families.”

“As hostage families, we want them to come out yesterday,” Orna Neutra, the mother of soldier Omer Neutra, told Fox News Digital.

Israeli families carry photos of their loved ones held hostage by Hamas in Gaza. (Matan Golan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

She said that after the first ceasefire agreement, “we heard that pressure had to be put on Hamas for something to happen, but now we are on day 177 and for all the pressure that was put on Hamas, there was none.” further publications.

“We are very frustrated and it is very worrying that this war seems to have no end, and we are also not sure what the incentive is for Hamas to release them if the war continues,” Neutra said, also adding That’s because your son is one of the IDF soldiers being held. He is unlikely to be released even if a humanitarian ceasefire agreement is reached in the near future.

omer neutral

Omer Neutra, 22, was born in Manhattan and grew up on Long Island. (Courtesy bring her home now)

The remaining children, women, elderly and injured are reportedly being prioritized by negotiating teams that continue to meet in Egypt and Qatar this week.

“We feel like we’re stuck in a situation where politics plays too big a role,” said Ronen Neutra, Omer’s father. “It’s obviously an election year in the United States and there are all sorts of considerations for the administration.”

Furthermore, he said: “[Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is fighting to stay in power in a difficult situation and must make difficult decisions about what is more important.”

The Neutras, along with the parents of other IDF soldiers held hostage, met with the Israeli leader last Thursday and made it clear to him that the release of all hostages should be a priority, more than winning the war or political survival.

The Israeli-born parents, who immigrated to the United States more than 25 years ago, said their son was born in Manhattan a few days after the al-Qaeda attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“We thought we lived in one of the safest places in the world in terms of terrorism,” Ronen Neutra said. “Like the rest of the country, September 11th took us completely by surprise, and little did we know that 22 years later our son would become the victim of the largest terrorist attack on Israel and we would be terrorized ourselves for the next six months.”

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President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are participating in an expanded bilateral meeting

President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are shown at an expanded bilateral meeting on October 18, 2023 in Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The Neutras also said they had received an outpouring of support from the administration and American politicians “on both sides of the aisle.” They said they hoped the issue of Gaza hostages remained a bipartisan issue.

“This is a terrible humanitarian situation and everyone must work together to support the president and the government and apply external pressure,” said Ronen Neutra. “They should do everything they can to ensure that Netanyahu, the Qataris and Egypt are all on the same page. Everyone must work together to bring her home. There’s no time left.”

Neutra said he thought it was important to remind Americans that about 44 U.S. citizens were killed on Oct. 7, and he asked, “Where’s the outrage?”

“That’s a frightening number,” said Neutra. “We don’t think Americans understand or know, and we’re wondering: Where is the outrage and where is the public?”

Chen said, “Every patriotic American from Massachusetts to Michigan to Montana to Arizona should ask themselves, when was the last time over 40 U.S. citizens were killed by a terrorist organization and where is there justice for the U.S. people?”


Hamas terrorists in Gaza

Palestinian Hamas terrorists are seen during a military show in Gaza City, July 20, 2017. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Frustration is growing among the hostage families, Chen said, calling on Palestinians living in Gaza to also apply pressure to bring the hostages home and end the war.

“They could go to their elected officials — they voted for Hamas — and demand a solution, like we are doing,” he said. “She [the Palestinians] Given that there is hunger and that there is a significant humanitarian crisis, given that the Israelis will not end this war until all the hostages are free, why aren’t they demanding that their elected representatives make a deal? “

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