As Israel prepares for a possible ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, some Israelis whose family members were kidnapped by Hamas gunmen during the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks are split over the idea of sending troops into the enclave.
Maayan Zin, whose two daughters, 15 and 8, were kidnapped, feels that the country should do anything it can to bring back the hostages.
“I don’t understand defense and warfare,” she said in an interview. “I just want them to return my daughters — the world, the military chief of staff and the prime minister.”
“They should do everything, obviously: a prisoner exchange deal, an operation, a backflip in the air,” she said, adding, “They just need to bring back my daughters. Any price is worth it for my daughters.”
The two girls live with their father, Ms. Zin’s ex-husband, in Kibbutz Nahal Oz, one of the communities near the Gaza Strip that was overrun by militants. The girls were supposed to be spending the weekend with their mother, who lives in central Israel, but there had been a change of plans, Ms. Zin said.
Her nightmare began when she heard rocket sirens on the day of the attacks. She turned on the TV and learned there were rocket warnings in Kibbutz Nahal Oz, too. She reached out to her former husband to check on the girls. He confirmed to her through WhatsApp that the family was in its safe room.
That was the last she heard from them.
Several hours later, her sister called to tell her that a photo had surfaced on the Telegram messaging app of the 15-year-old, Dafna Elyakim, sitting on a mattress, looking distraught. She sent the photo to Ms. Zin.
They found another photo of Dafna and 8-year-old Ella that had surfaced on Telegram. Both were wearing unfamiliar clothes and sitting on mattresses in an unknown location. A video soon followed: Hamas, the group that controls Gaza and staged the surprise attacks on Israel, had livestreamed its attackers questioning their father, who was bleeding from the leg, and his partner, using his partner’s Facebook page to do so. The two girls and the partner’s son sat with the couple as they were questioned in the family’s home.
Ms. Zin has spent the days since the attacks desperately seeking information about the girls while juggling media interviews and meetings with the military official who is assigned to provide her with updates and check on her well-being. The official confirmed her daughters had been kidnapped but had no other details about them or their father, Ms. Zin said. She said she had, however, learned that her ex-husband’s partner and her son had been killed.
Ms. Zin is pressing for the return of her daughters, and all other hostages, by any means necessary. “I demand it from my country,” she said.
“I am not a woman with money; I don’t have property,” Ms. Zin added. “I have my two daughters. That’s it. That’s all I have. It’s for them that I wake up in the morning. And now, I don’t have my daughters.”
Avichai Broduch, a 42-year-old farmer from Kibbutz Kfar Azza, is also waiting for the return of hostages: his wife, Hagar, and their three children, Ofri, 10; Yuval, 8; and Uriah, 4.
He is unsure what a ground invasion of Gaza would accomplish. “It simply won’t help,” Mr. Broduch said, adding that it could work if it were done to “restore peace.”
But “if the goal is to spill blood, then God help us,” he said. “I just want the state to fulfill its obligation to bring our kids back home.”
He protested outside the Israel Defense Forces’ headquarters in Tel Aviv on Saturday, holding a sign that said “My family is in Gaza” to demand the return of his wife and children. He plans to continue protesting there each day until they are home safe.
Some Israelis think a ground invasion could give Israel the negotiating leverage to free their loved ones.
Amit Shemtov’s 20-year-old brother, Omer, was kidnapped and taken to Gaza after going to a music festival in Re’im, in southern Israel, that was attacked by gunmen on Oct. 7. He believes a ground invasion could be “one of the ways that will pressure Hamas to let them go” and thinks it could push the group toward a deal that might free Omer and other hostages.
Mr. Shemtov said he felt helpless knowing that his brother was being held in Gaza and that he could not reach him. “This is all I can do right now: wait and spread awareness,” he said.
Adam Sella contributed reporting from Tel Aviv.