With the world now focused on the Israeli military's controversial air strikes and ground assault on Gaza, families of hostages are trying everything they can to keep their loved ones, who've already spent weeks in captivity, front of mind. They want no one to forget that among those held captive are dozens of innocent children.
It's an emblematic image — a 30-year-old mother clutching her baby and 4-year-old son as Hamas kidnaps them.
Yifat Zeiler is a relative of an abducted family that includes Hamas's youngest hostage, now 10-month-old Kfir. Terrorists snatched the family of four from the Nir Oz kibbutz on Oct. 7.
"At 6:30 in the morning, the sirens went off. I texted my family. They all answered. We're fine, ran to safer ground. 9:00, they stopped answering," Zeiler said. "We know that they were kidnapped together and we don't know what happened from there ... If they're even alive."
Zeiler says baby Kfir had just begun to crawl and still needs baby formula.
"He just started to crawl. He's just started to eat raw food, you know, some smashed bananas and apples and soup. And Ariel — the 4-year-old — is an amazing boy."
Ariel and Kfir are among the around 30 children being held by Hamas. Families are desperately trying to prevent the world from forgetting about them, creating posters, social media posts, and public displays.
On Rothschild Boulevard, one of Tel Aviv's most famous and busy streets, there is a jarring reminder of the many children who are missing or still being held captive by Hamas.
SCRIPPS NEWS' JASON BELLINI: Is there anything that gives you hope right now?
YIFAT ZEILER: To be honest, no. I see how the media attention shifted very quickly toward the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. We are the bad ones again.
Zeiler questions her country's military invasion of Gaza.
"We don't need any more dead children. We need our families back," Zeiler said. "I would never, never wish anyone to be dead. I don't think you can find someone like me on the other side. And I don't blame them. It's how you're raised. I was raised to believe that peace is possible."
But her belief in giving peace a chance is now shaken; her values victimized by Oct. 7.
"How can you negotiate and negotiate peace with someone who doesn't want you alive, doesn't want you here?" Zeiler asked. "Kids are not supposed to be a part of this."
But children she loves are — and contemplating the conditions they may be enduring is almost too much for her to bear.
"They can keep them alive. But you know, in what conditions? What kind of family will I receive back?" Zeiler asked.
It's a question so many families are asking — hoping and praying they'll get their answer.
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