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Families of hostages speak out as Congress debates aid to Israel

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We just spoke of the hostages still being held by militants in Gaza. There are more than 130, and they have now been in captivity for 60 days. As Congress debates more aid for Israel, some of the family members of hostages are calling for more U.S. support to the effort to bring their loved ones home. NPR's Becky Sullivan has this report.

BECKY SULLIVAN, BYLINE: Dalia Paulina Cusnir says it's impossible to explain to her kids what happened to their two uncles, Eitan and Yair Horn.

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DALIA PAULINA CUSNIR: These people just entered and took them, and we don't know when are they coming home if they are coming home.

SULLIVAN: The Horn brothers were two of the nearly 250 people who were kidnapped by Hamas and other militants on October 7. More than a hundred were freed during a seven-day cease-fire as part of an exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli detention. But 138 hostages are still in captivity in Gaza, most of them adult men, including the Horn brothers.

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CUSNIR: And a week ago, we got signs of life, and we were super happy knowing that they're alive and they're not injured. And I don't want to say they're in good health, but at least they're not wounded.

SULLIVAN: Kusnir and other hostage family members spoke Tuesday at a press conference in Washington alongside members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

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CUSNIR: We need you to understand that every second is critical. And every minute that goes by, their chances to keep on being alive are decreasing because a human being cannot go through those kind of things.

SULLIVAN: The press conference came as Congress debates a funding bill that would send $10 billion in military aid to Israel for its fight against Hamas. But some Democrats, including Senator Bernie Sanders, oppose sending what they call unconditional aid. On Monday, Sanders said Israel hasn't done enough to limit harm to civilians in Gaza, where authorities say about 16,000 people have been killed by Israeli airstrikes.

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BERNIE SANDERS: Israel's indiscriminate approach is, in my view, offensive to most Americans. It is in violation of U.S. and international law.

SULLIVAN: Top U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, have urged Israel to take more effective steps to preserve civilian lives. Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed or wounded since the end of the temporary cease-fire, according to Gaza health officials.

Becky Sullivan, NPR News, Washington.

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

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Becky Sullivan
Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.