World News

Pope Meets Families Of Israeli Hostages

 

Pope Francis on Monday met relatives of several Israelis taken hostage by Hamas in the October 7 attacks.

The 87-year-old pontiff had previously met a group of relatives of hostages at the Vatican in November, the same day as meeting Palestinians who have family in Gaza.

Members of five Israeli families had a private audience with Francis on Monday, showing him posters of loved ones who were taken, including Ariel and Kfir Bibas, aged four and one respectively.

There were also relatives of hostages Tamir Nimrodi, 19, Guy Gilboa-Dalal, 22, Agam Berger, 19, and Omri Miran, 46.

Berger’s cousin, Ashley Waxman, said afterwards that the meeting had been “very emotional” and “very powerful”.

 

This photo taken and handout on April 8, 2024 by The Vatican Media shows Pope Francis during a meeting with relatives of Israeli hostages from the Bibas family (Shiri, Yarden, Ariel, Kfir), Omri Miran, Agam Berger, Guy Gilboa Dalal and Tamir Nimrodi, held in Gaza since October 7 attacks by Hamas militants. (Photo by Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP)

 

The pope “called Hamas evil, which they are… And, he was very clear that the hostages need to come home”, she told a press conference.

Gilboa-Dalal’s mother, Meirav, said that since he was taken hostage at a music festival on October 7, “for me, there is no day and no night”.

“My heart is broken. I can barely breathe. And I am paralysed with fear. Where is my Guy? Where? When will my Guy come home?”

The October 7 attack resulted in the deaths of 1,170 Israelis and foreigners, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants also took more than 250 Israeli and foreign hostages, 129 of whom remain in Gaza. The Israeli army says that 34 of those still missing are dead.

In the six months since the attacks, Israel’s retaliatory bombing and ground offensive have killed at least 33,175 people in Gaza, most of them women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in the besieged Palestinian territory.

Speaking after his weekly Sunday prayer at the Vatican, the pope repeated his call for peace.

“Let us always pray for peace, a just, lasting peace, in particular for martyred Ukraine and for Palestine and Israel,” he said.

The Israelis were in Italy as part of a delegation that included Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz.

Katz met his Italian counterpart, Antonio Tajani, on Sunday, the six-month anniversary of Hamas attack in southern Israel.

AFP

Kayode Oyero

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