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Families of hostages captured by Hamas have waited weeks for their release

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The families of the hostages captured by Hamas have waited six excruciating weeks for news of them, especially about if or when their loved ones will be free, as you've just heard. Boaz Atzili is among those who are waiting. He is a professor at American University here in Washington, D.C. His cousin Aviv Atzili and his cousin's wife, Liat, have been missing since Hamas torched the kibbutz where they live on October 7. And Boaz Atzili is with us now. Good morning. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

BOAZ ATZILI: Good morning, Michel.

MARTIN: What a day.

ATZILI: Yeah.

MARTIN: Have you have you heard anything about the location or safety of your cousin and his wife?

ATZILI: No. We haven't heard anything since October 7. We just know that they're - disappeared from their home, and the home was burned, and there's no sign of body. We know that his phone was geolocated to Gaza. That's all we know. So we hope that as part of this deal, at least we get some more information, whether they're there, whether they're alive.

MARTIN: You do - forgive me for asking this way - I assume you have hope that they survived the attack on the kibbutz.

ATZILI: Yes, yes. We believe that they survived.

MARTIN: May I ask your thoughts on the terms of this deal, what you've been hearing so far? - the exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners in Israel, the incentive to release more hostages, women and children first, obviously, but then incentives to release more. What are your thoughts about it?

ATZILI: So, you know, I'm not quite objective being a family member, but I think first of all, every hostage that is released, it's good. It's very good - in particular, the children that will be released. That will be wonderful. It's just been heart-wrenching for their families and everybody. As far as I know, men are not included in this deal. So my cousin Aviv will not be back, at least in the first phase. If Liat will be among the people released, that's really a blessing. But I really hope that the deal will be - could be expanded, that they will use the pause or cease-fire, whatever they want to call it, to expand the deal and to release all of the hostages. And no price is too high to pay for the life of so many people.

MARTIN: I know that Aviv and Liat have children. May I ask, where are they now? How are they coping with this?

ATZILI: As you can imagine, it's extremely hard. Yes, they have three children. They are young adult, and they are in Eilat in a hotel where they were evacuated from the kibbutz. Two of them work at the kibbutz. At the time of the attack, one of them basically held the handle for the safe room for many hours while Hamas was in the house. They stole everything from the house, but they didn't torch it, fortunately. So they're in - they're basically refugees, internally displaced at this point. And they are waiting for their parents. They don't know if they're going to see them again, if they ever going to hug them again.

MARTIN: I'm so sorry. It's - it is beyond words. But before I let you go, may I ask, is there something you particularly would want the negotiators to know as they continue to try to secure the release of the hostages?

ATZILI: You know, I just want to say that in addition to the hostages, we know that the price of civilian Palestinian lives is terrible, really terrible. And Aviv and Liat are peace-loving people. They are peace advocates. They're not - I want to tell the Palestinians that these are not your enemies. We all need to look ahead, and there are two nations, two people in this small land, and neither of them is going anywhere. So, yeah. So we need to start to think about peaceful solution.

MARTIN: That is Boaz Atzili. His cousin Aviv and his cousin's wife, Liat, are believed to be hostages of Hamas in Gaza. Mr. Atzili, my deepest wishes for the safety of your family and for your well-being and for peace.

ATZILI: Thank you, Michel.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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