The son of a Canadian woman believed to be among those held hostage by Hamas in Gaza wants the world to push for an end to the fighting and says he fears Israel’s escalating offensive could end all chance of bringing his mother safely home.
Yonatan Zeigen’s mother, Vivian Silver, is one of an estimated 229 hostages taken by Hamas during its bloody Oct. 7 rampage in Israel.
Hamas fighters breached Israel’s defences and stormed into nearby towns like Silver’s, gunning down civilians and soldiers in a surprise attack that killed at least 1,400 people.
Since then, Israel has drastically limited electricity and food in the territory, and this weekend has ramped up air and land assaults ahead of an expected full-scale invasion of the densely populated territory.
Zeigen says Silver raised him to believe that peace is the only way to solve the decades of conflict in the Middle East, and he’s worried that hostages will die if there is a ground invasion.
Zeigen also says he’s been in contact with officials from the Canadian government about securing his mother’s release.
“I don’t know how much power Canada has, but it seems like they’re very much invested in doing everything they can,” Zeigen told reporters on a Zoom call Sunday organized by the Jerusalem Press Club.
Zeigen says his mother’s phone was geolocated in Gaza but said he isn’t sure about her condition or exact whereabouts.
Yet Silver was a volunteer for groups that strive for peace with Palestinians and that help Gaza residents access medical care, and Zeigen says those contacts have shared information that makes him believe she was taken hostage.
“My basic belief is that the military actions don’t solve anything,” Zeigen said.
Zeigen said Hamas took hostages as leverage, and if they lose that leverage, they don’t have use for them anymore. He also said it’s unclear what future Palestinians will have if a full-scale invasion takes place.
“The attack on Oct. 7, it was vicious (and) really brutal. But it happened in a certain context of this region of years and years of dehumanizing people from both sides,” Zeigen said.
He called on the world to “push immediately for diplomacy” to have the hostages released, and said that could set the stage for a new reality.
“We have been left alone, Israelis and Palestinians, to try to work this out for too long,” he said.
Zeigen said the mother he knew before her kidnapping would have opposed the Israeli military operation in Gaza, but admits he can’t say how she would feel today considering the massacres that took place at her community of Kibbutz Be’eri, where he says her home has been burned to the ground.
Desperate family members met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday and expressed support for an exchange for Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.
Israel is currently governed by a war coalition, and media reports suggest there is not a consensus on how to handle the situation, including the fate of hostages.
Hamas’ top leader in Gaza, Yehia Sinwar, said Palestinian militants “are ready immediately” to release all hostages if Israel releases all of the thousands of Palestinians held in its prisons.