Inside the desperate lobbying effort to get the US to rescue Hamas hostages

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., meets with families of people injured or taken hostage during the Hamas attack on Israel, Thursday, Oct. 1, at the Capitol in Washington.  August 26, 2023. The man in the middle right is Ruby Chen, originally from the Brooklyn borough of New York, but now living in Israel.  His son is Itay Chen, an American-Israeli dual citizen who served in the Israeli army during the attacks and has been missing since.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(J Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Inside the desperate lobbying effort to get the US to rescue Hamas hostages

Israel-Hamas

Noa Bierman

Oct. 28, 2023

A few days after Israeli soldiers knocked on his door

near Tel Aviv

To tell him that his son had been captured by Hamas, Ruby Chen boarded a plane

to New York.

He has been patiently telling his story ever since: outside the United Nations on Tuesday, in meetings all day Thursday with members of Congress from both parties, to Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday. He met with the FBI, State

D

Department negotiators and New York City officials all week.

We are a delegation of American citizens, Chen, a 55-year-old technology executive, said Friday in an interview at a synagogue in Washington, where he was about to address a congregation meeting

below

heavy security for Sabbath evening services.

Our expectation and what we have seen is that the US will not just play a supporting role, but actually play an active role in the negotiation process, Chen said.

Chen, who grew up in New York and has dual citizenship, was accompanied by a group

about a dozen

other American families of prisoners flooded the Capitol this week, sometimes compartmentalizing but never hiding their anger. Chen

wears one

spot over his left eye, the result of a stress-induced outbreak of shingles.

On Thursday evening,

he passed out in his hotel room five minutes after a Lakers game.

But Chen doesn’t stop answering questions. Keeping his 19-year-old son Itay in the public eye is too important. He asks

the legislators and reporters

he meets to imagine how they would feel if they had their own child

were taken hostage

. He and the other families believe that the US can influence partners in the region to resolve this humanitarian problem as quickly as possible and liberate the population.

10

Americans are among more than 200 hostages held by Hamas.

An aerospace lobbyist with U.S. and Israeli clients who works with the group said the attention is their best hope and they are making plans to maintain it.

In the past, Hamas has held Israelis as hostages for years, said the lobbyist, who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons. They fear that if they no longer have a presence in the US, they will disappear from sight, out of mind.

Itay, who was also born in America, was

on active duty in the Israeli army

He was guarding a farming settlement near the Gaza border when he was captured after fighting with Hamas invaders, Chen said. He has been unable to contact his family and Hamas has not allowed independent doctors or monitors to check on his well-being, Chen said.

Chen said U.S. officials have been fully involved from the start

on Oct. 13

Zoom call President Biden held with the families. The

phone call

It was supposed to last 15 minutes, but Biden pushed the aides aside and stayed with the families for 90 minutes. His Thursday rallies include both Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, one of the most conservative Republicans, and

Senate

Majority Leader

Chuck Charles E.

Schumer, the New York Democrat.

Friday’s meeting with Harris at the State Department was described as emotional by both Chen and a US official in attendance.

It w

led by Roger Carstens, Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, and including Raaj Maan, who heads the FBI’s Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell, along with other senior government and White House officials. Harris was accompanied by her husband, Doug Emhoff, and stayed for more than an hour, hugging the families and asking them to share their lives before and after the Oct. 1 disaster. 7 Hamas attack. Harris told the group that she and her husband took their family members’ captivity personally, that the government made their release a priority and that they should not feel alone while fighting for them, according to a U.S. official present who requested anonymity. to discuss the sensitive meeting. Harris later tweeted a photo of herself hugging one of the women.

Many of the lawmakers they met told them

family sm

they planned to wear metal tags the group had made with the message in Hebrew and English: “Take them home now!”

But U.S. officials have withheld many details about their work to free the hostages, citing security concerns, Chen said.

To some extent I can understand why, he said. But it does create a level of frustration.

Qatar has publicly helped negotiate the release of hostages, but Chen said there are parallel tracks with other countries he declined to name. So far, two Americans and two Israelis have been released.

Chen said the group was also frustrated that they could not meet with U.N. officials, who he said were interested in other aspects of the conflict.

As Chen met a Times reporter on Friday, Israel was intensifying attacks on Gaza ahead of an expected ground invasion that could further endanger prisoners. Chen said he had not taken a position on the ground invasion when he spoke with U.S. officials.

Obviously, a person with a child in Gaza would be concerned, he said. But can I make an informed decision about this? That’s not my profession.

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