Wilfried Devillers with AFP / Photo credit: AMIR LEVY / GETTY IMAGES EUROPE / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP
7:49 p.m., November 23, 2023
Emotions were most intense Thursday among Israeli and Palestinian families affected by the agreement to free hostages held in Gaza in exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israel. The exchange, which is to last four days, was to begin Friday with a dozen Israeli women and children and 30 Palestinian women and teenagers. But the agreement was due to come into force on Thursday and has already been postponed overnight, to the despair of the families of some 240 hostages held by Hamas terrorists since October 7, the day of the worst attack in Israel’s history. .
“We have been on an emotional roller coaster for 47 days already and today it continues,” said Eyal Kalderon, 38, whose cousin Ofer was kidnapped along with his two children, Erez, 12, and Sahar, 16 years old. “We hope at least that the children will return as soon as possible,” he added. “Time is running out and they can’t wait any longer – neither them nor the elderly, sick or injured.”
“We will be able to breathe when we see them with our own eyes”
Sitting next to her, Yaël, her twin sister, confirms that the uncertainty is hellish. “We try to keep a cool head, we will only be able to breathe when we see them with our own eyes, with the Red Cross,” she told AFPTV, “it is difficult to ignore the news and it destabilizes us. Saturday will be their cousin Ofer’s 53rd birthday, while his son Erez turned 12 on October 27, in captivity.
“For Ofer, the greatest gift will be knowing that his children are coming back to us here and that they will be with their mother Hadass and their whole family,” said Eyal Kalderon. Under the terms of the agreement, 50 Israeli hostages will initially be exchanged over several days for 150 Palestinian prisoners, with the possibility of carrying out other exchanges in the same proportions subsequently. Israeli authorities published a list of 300 eligible detainees, without specifying the release order.
“We dream of being able to laugh together”
For the occasion, Europe 1 met Tsvika. His sister-in-law, his brother-in-law and their two children were kidnapped in the kibbutz of Nir Or. After the announcement of the agreement between Hamas and Israel, he tries to remain positive. “We’re clinging to every bit of hope. All we want is for them to be released tomorrow. You know, I spoke to my wife earlier and we imagine all together as a family for the next Shabbat dinner. With my sister-in-law, my brother-in-law and their daughters, we dream of being able to laugh all together as we have done so often”, hopes this man at the microphone from Europe 1.
Despite everything, he still admits to being really worried. “The whole family is under medical treatment. My sister-in-law recently recovered from cancer. We hope that they are all well physically and mentally,” he said to himself.
“I haven’t slept since we talked about a deal.”
In Beit Safafa, a suburb of East Jerusalem, the Palestinian part of the city, occupied since 1967, the mother of a Palestinian prisoner admitted that tension had skyrocketed since the exchange was postponed. “Only God knows how bad I feel,” said Fatina Salman, whose daughter Malak was arrested on the way to school seven years ago for trying to stab a police officer in Jerusalem. “We are waiting and I am afraid that something will go wrong,” she added. “My health is fragile and every event stresses me out.” With a trembling voice, she confides: “I haven’t slept since we were told about an agreement, I worry all the time.”