Bay Area families wait for answers as hostage exchange continues during 4-day cease-fire

Tara Campbell Image
Sunday, November 26, 2023
Israel-Hamas war: Bay Area families wait for answers on hostages
Bay Area families wait for answers on their relatives as the prisoner exchange continues during the temporary Israel-Hamas cease-fire.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Here in the Bay Area, there is a real connection to what is going on in the Middle East.

We know of at least one man who has relatives that were taken hostage, and there are others who have family trapped in Gaza that they are trying to get in contact with.

ABC7 News reporter Tara Campbell has the latest on the prisoner exchange and Israel-Hamas war.

A Red Cross convey carrying 17 freed hostages inside Israel Saturday, and two of them are Oren Rubentein's relatives.

We first met the Pacifica resident a couple of weeks ago, putting up posters of the more than 200 hostages still being held by Hamas and a plea to bring them home.

"My first cousins, three of my first cousins have been kidnapped," said Oren Rubenstein, Pacifica Resident, earlier this month.

"My cousin Ilan, his wife Shiri, and their 18-year-old daughter. And she's one of the people that is listed as the children," he said, referring to their posters.

Tara Campbell: "Can you tell me a bit about her?"

Rubenstein: "Yeah, Noga is 18, she was living at home with her parents, she's a sweet girl, loved volleyball and her friends, just like anyone here."

MORE: 13 Israeli hostages, 4 foreigners released from captivity in the Gaza Strip, Israeli military says

Fast forward to the present day. Noga Weiss and her mom Sheri have been listed as two of the hostages handed over by Hamas on Saturday. I also received a message from Rubenstein, say they are safe. He's been in Israel this past week.

Hamas delayed the the handover for hours Saturday amid disputes over which Palestinians prisoners would be released and aid into Gaza.

Everything from medical supplies, to food, and water . . . desperately needed.

MORE: Bay Area Palestinians, indigenous groups call for full cease-fire amidst 4-day humanitarian pause

The protests come as a brief pause to the violence in Gaza takes effect while hostages are exchanged.

"In our area, they still had some water even though it was tainted, so everyone was throwing up because of the dirty water, but they said they at least they had water,: said Basim Elkarra, San Francisco native.

He says he's lost dozens of family members - in the war.

"We lost many, many loved ones and we still don't know the extent - the latest number from my mom and dad's side is more than 65," he said.

And he says he's expecting that number to climb.

"It's very difficult to function here, when you don't know if your loved one's are alive or dead," Elkarra said.

MORE: Bay Area families wait to see if their loved ones are among hostages released by Hamas

A four-day ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has begun and families are waiting to see if their loved ones will be among 50 hostages released.

And while daunting, he says this four-day cease-fire does offer some hope.

"Seeing the images of hostages on both sides being released and the celebrations, it's a feeling of hope that this could end," he said.

And while hopeful, he's also cautious.

"I think people of consciousness have to come together and really push on our elected officials to keep pressure on the administration to push for a permanent cease-fire," he said.

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