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'Anxiety' racks Israeli hostage families as army assaults Gaza

ThefamiliesofIsraelihostagesheld by Hamas in theGazaStrip have beenrackedwith worry for their loved ones since the military stepped up groundassaultsinside the Palestinian territory, a group lobbying for thefamiliessaid on Saturday.

“This night was the most terrible of all nights … against the backdrop of the major IDF (Israel Defense Forces) operation in the Strip,” theHostagesand MissingFamiliesForum said in a statement.

It said that thehostagesbeing held by Hamas were being subjected to the same heavy bombardmentasPalestinian residents and that theirfamilieswererackedwith “anxiety, frustration” that Israel’s long-awaited ground invasion will put them in more danger.

Israel has been bombarding theGazaStrip, which Palestinian militant group Hamas controls, since Hamas waged a deadly Oct. 7assaultthat targetedarmyoutposts and civilian communities in the area and killed 1,400 people, mostly civilians.

Hamas took more than 200hostagesback intoGazaduring its raids. It has so far released four and said on Thursday thatIsraelibombing had killed another 50 – a claim Reuters could not verify.

Israel’s air strikes and artillery fire have demolished large swathes ofGazaand killed more than 7,000 people in the last three weeks, Palestinian health officials say, including some 3,000 children.

Israel said on Saturday that it stepped up ground operations insideGazaovernight, during internet and power blackouts in the Strip, and that forces were still fighting in the area, without elaborating.

TheHostagesand MissingFamiliesForum criticized Israel’s cabinet for not meeting those whose loved ones are still held while Israel presses itsassault.

“Thefamiliesare worried about the fate of their loved ones and are waiting for an explanation. Every minute feels like an eternity,” it said.

Israel said on Wednesday that more than half thehostagesheld by Hamas have foreign passports from 25 different countries. Many were believed to have had dualIsraelinationality.

Thehostagesare believed to be hidden in theGazaStrip, possibly in a warren of tunnels Hamas has built there.

(Published 28 October 2023, 10:26 IST)

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