It has been 71 days since Hamas terrorists launched a surprise attack on Israel that resulted in the immediate deaths of approximately 1,200 people and the abductions of roughly 240 people, including several Americans.
Though more than 100 hostages have been freed from Hamas’ custody in recent weeks, eight Americans remain unaccounted for and are presumed to have been taken captive by the terrorist group during the early October massacre.
Two Americans who disappeared on that devastating day and have not been heard from since include Judith Weinstein and Gad Haggai, a couple in their 70s who resided in southern Israel’s Kibbutz Nir Oz near the Gaza border. The pair were on a morning walk when the chaos erupted Oct. 7.
The couple’s daughter, Iris Weinstein Haggai, spoke to Fox News Digital about the pain she’s suffered since her parents went missing. She has received no indication about the condition of her parents.
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Weinstein Haggai said she has been working around the clock with multiple governments to assist with efforts to free the hostages.
“My heart is basically split,” she said, describing the circumstances around her parents’ disappearance as she attempts to maintain a healthy lifestyle for her children.
Weinstein Haggai, who said she doesn’t know whether her mom is “alive or dead,” confided that “everything’s kind of a nightmare” for her.
Weinstein Haggai became concerned about her parents’ well-being after the couple set out for a walk on the morning of Oct. 7 and never texted their daughter that they had made it back.
“I noticed that it’s 7:20 in the morning and my mom’s not telling me they’re back home. And then, at 7:30, I see my friends are telling me that the terrorists are in the kibbutz, they’re going door to door and burning people,” she recalled. “Then my mind was like, ok, if it’s 7:30 and the kibbutz is full of terrorists there’s no way my parents could come back and not encounter them. They didn’t answer my phone [calls].”
Nine days passed before Weinstein Haggai received any word about the disappearance of her parents from an Israeli government official, who wasn’t able to provide her with much information on their whereabouts.
Following the disappearance of her parents in October, Weinstein Haggai said in an interview that month that she hoped to receive some evidence pointing to “proof of life” of the couple. Since then, she has yet to receive anything.
“Nobody saw my mom. You know, there was this whole Hamas reality show with the list, and my mom was the perfect profile to be released, and she wasn’t,” she recalled. “Basically, my assumption, and nobody told me this, but my assumption is they just can’t find her. My parents were basically the first civilians to encounter the terrorists that day…. You can’t really know what they did with them because they were the first. Who knows [if] they threw them somewhere.”
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Pointing to the last piece of “proof of life” evidence she received from her mother, Weinstein Haggai discussed a call her mother had placed with paramedics in the region.
“It’s recorded, and she says there that she was shot, that my dad was shot. And, you know, that’s the last thing we know of her,” she said, describing the call placed by her mother.
Regarding the war overall, Weinstein Haggai said she believes “people are really confusing the real issue here, which is not Jews against Palestinians [or] Jews against Arabs.”
“That was never the issue. The issue is the war against a terror group. You know, we’re talking about people who don’t think like us. They are raping hostages, not just females. They are giving them little food,” she said.
Pointing to stories shared by those who have been released by Hamas, Weinstein Haggai described the evil atrocities committed by Hamas in the aftermath of the initial attack.
“This little boy, 9-year-old boy, he was in a tunnel by himself and they let him watch all the videos that they took on Oct. 7 of the murders and everything,” she said. “They made him watch that for like an hour every day. Who does that?”
“The world needs to come together, create some kind of international coalition to not only free the hostages that are held hostage, but to free the Palestinians from this oppression,” she added.
Last week, President Biden met with the families of those who remain unaccounted for and are presumed to have been taken hostage by Hamas. Weinstein Haggai, who currently resides in Singapore as she travels back and forth to Israel, joined that conversation remotely.
Weinstein Haggai said she walked away from that conversation, which included Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and principal deputy national security adviser Jon Finer, with an understanding that freeing the hostages was a major focus for the administration.
“It was very, very clear that they’re doing everything in their power,” she said. “This is a top priority right now in the U.S. government.”
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“President Biden knew everything about their story – who my mom is, who my dad is,” she added. “He really took the time to get to know these people. He really understood that these are not just hostages, that these are grandparents, these are parents, these are sons, daughters.… It was very clear to me that they are fully committed to releasing all the hostages.”
Though it is unclear how exactly it will be done under the circumstances, which are unlike any the world has witnessed in recent history, the Biden administration has reaffirmed its commitment to reuniting the families with their loved ones, who they have not heard from in more than two months.
Biden’s two-hour meeting with the families came a day after he appeared to sharpen criticism of Israel’s execution of its retaliatory strikes in Gaza, warning that the Israelis were losing international support because of “indiscriminate bombing.”
Thirteen of the family members attended in person, while three others joined the conversation with the president and his advisers by phone, according to the White House.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Biden’s comments reflected “a concern that we have had for some time and will continue to have as this military operation proceeds about the need for reducing civilian harm and being as precise and careful and deliberate as possible.”
“I reassured them that I will continue doing everything possible to secure the release of their family members,” Biden said in a post to X after the meeting. “And that we will not give up hope.”
Israel and Hamas reached a temporary cease-fire agreement that took effect on Nov. 24, during which 110 hostages were freed by the terrorist group in exchange for some 240 Palestinian prisoners. The truce ended and fighting resumed on Nov. 30 after both sides accused the other of violating its terms.
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The Israeli military announced Friday that it had recovered the bodies of three hostages in Gaza who were taken by Hamas in October, though it was not immediately clear how the three men died or where the remains were found. The three individuals, two of whom were Israeli soldiers, were identified as Cpl. Nik Beiser, 19; Sgt. Ron Sherman, 19; and Elia Toledano, 28, who was a dual citizen of Israel and France.
The White House has said at least 31 Americans were killed by Hamas and other militant groups on Oct. 7.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.