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Family members blast words of support for hostages over the Israel-Gaza border

RE’IM, Israel — Armed with just a microphone and loudspeakers, they delivered a message of hope for their loved ones held hostage by Hamas for almost 100 days.

“We’re turning the entire world upside down for you,” said Meirav Gonen, whose 23-year-old daughter Romi remains in captivity, as she stood on Israel’s border with Gaza on Thursday.

“We’re here. We’re here on the fence, we’re here for you and for the rest of the abductees. We’re bringing you home. We’re doing everything, turning the whole world upside down, bringing the entire world together just to ensure that you return,” she added.

Others took the microphone and delivered their own messages, hopeful that their relatives would hear them above the din of the ongoing war.

“It’s Mom and Dad. We’re here, we’re really close to you, we’re fighting for you every single day,” one said.

Some shed tears as they spoke at the event. Most held posters with pictures of their loved ones. Others stood silently, reflecting on the fact that they have not seen or heard from their relatives after they were taken captive on Oct. 7 — 100 days ago Sunday.

Relatives of Israeli hostages at the Gaza border, on Jan. 11, 2024.
Relatives of Israeli hostages at the Gaza border, on Jan. 11, 2024. Jack Guez / AFP – Getty Images

They were abducted on a day that began with music and dancing at the Supernova, or Nova, music festival, a few miles from the border where their relatives now gathered in southern Israel.

Videos posted on social media before the Hamas incursion showed young people bouncing around to trance music under a giant Buddha statue and prayer flags. Later, screaming people were filmed fleeing from the site as Hamas militants moved in, some of them using motorized paragliders to sweep over the border and cause carnage.

More than 360 people were killed at the festival site that day, according to Israeli police — around 30% of the 1,200 Israelis killed that day. Dozens more were taken hostage.

With talks to free the remaining hostages apparently stalled, Israel is continuing with a military assault on Gaza that has so far killed more than 23,700 people, according to Palestinian health officials. Israel says 129 hostages remain in Gaza, including 23 bodies of those killed in captivity.

Among those captured on Oct. 7 was Romi Gonen. Two days later, on Oct. 9, Meirav recalled to NBC News how her daughter, a waitress, had called her from the festival site to tell her she had been shot and was bleeding.

“She said, ‘Mommy I’m afraid I will die,’” Meirav said. “And I said, ‘No you’re not going to die.” Then, Meirav added, she heard voices in Arabic and gunfire as Hamas gunmen surrounded Romi’s car.

It was the last time she heard from her daughter.

Music festivals are common in Israel, drawing young people from around the country, as well as travelers from abroad. They often reflect the influence of destinations like India and Nepal, where many young Israelis visit after their military service.

Today, the site is a memorial, adorned with pictures on poles of those who died or were taken hostage, alongside Israeli flags.

Standing next to a picture of Romi, Meirav said it was a place “to be free and happy,” adding that the attack was “unimaginable because it’s so beautiful here and so quiet and, you know, it’s nature.”

Now, she said, “It’s not just the sounds that I hear. Now I have the images, the pictures of what she was going through.”

As she delivered her message from the border, she added that she was convinced Romi could “either hear me or feel that I’m talking to her.”

“I know she does,” she said. “I know she knows and I’m sure that she heard it. I’m sure that at least one or two hostages heard it. And they know that we are coming.”

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