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TEL AVIV, Israel — The son of missing Israel-Canadian peace activist Vivian Silver said Sunday the military escalation in Gaza had raised the dangers to his mother.

“I do fear that she’s more at risk,” Yonatan Zeigen told reporters, two days after the Israeli army moved into Gaza in response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that killed 1,400.

Silver, 74, a Winnipeg-born activist, has not been seen since Hamas stormed the Be’eri kibbutz, where she had lived since 1990. Her phone has since been traced to Gaza.

She is among 230 Israeli and other nationals missing since the attack, and presumed to be hostages of Hamas.

Israelis protest and call for the return of more than 220 people captured by Hamas militants, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue).

Chanting, “bring them home now,” hundreds gathered in Tel Aviv on Saturday to make sure the prisoners were not forgotten.

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They said they were concerned the Israeli military had launched its land assault of Gaza without thought to the prisoners, and called for negotiations to free them.

A group representing the families of the missing proposed an “everyone for everyone” plan that called for the Israeli government to free all Hamas prisoners in its custody in exchange for the release of the Israelis.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the release of all of the captives was one of the goals of the war but that the key to freeing them was pressure.

“The greater the pressure, the greater the chances,” he said.

October 26, 2023, Jerusalem, Israel: A woman walks through an installation titled Lights of Hope which projects 224 beams of light for 224 seconds every hour in solidarity with the hostages in the hands of Hamas of the Gaza Strip and their families. (Credit Image: © Nir Alon/ZUMA Press Wire).

Hamas said later it was  “ready to conduct an immediate prisoner swap” if Israel would release all Palestinians in its custody.

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Only four prisoners abducted during the Hamas attack three weeks ago have been freed, amid mounting evidence that kidnappings were a key objective of the incursion.

The attackers carried plastic restraints and manuals instructing them to take prisoners, according to Israeli authorities and volunteers who have been collecting victims’ bodies.

In videos released by Israel’s security service, captured Hamas members acknowledged that kidnapping women, children and the elderly was part of their mission.

One captured Hamas member said his commander had told him that kidnappers would be rewarded with an apartment and $10,000 for each Israeli they brought back to Gaza.

The large number of prisoners is complicating Netanyahu’s plan to confront Hamas, and set off protests by Israelis who want the hostages to take priority over military action.

Free Vivian Silver posters, Tel Aviv, Israel.

Stewart Bell/Global News

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Speaking to the Jerusalem Press Club, Zeigen said he was “afraid because it seems like the military option is more prevalent for government.”

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“And I fear that it would harm the hostages, that it’s not the moral thing to do and that it won’t bring us any closer to a better reality in the aftermath.”

The Canadian government has assured him it was doing all it could, he said. “I don’t know how much power Canada has, but it seems like they’re very much invested in doing everything they can.”

After moving to Israel in the 1970s, Silver helped launch groups such as Women Wage Peace. She also volunteered to drive Palestinians living in Gaza to Israeli hospitals.

“So she was a very busy woman and doing good, and she was also a wonderful mother and grandmother to four grandchildren, very active in her kibbutz committees,” her son said.

Israeli-Canadian human rights campaigner Vivian Silver in an undated photo. Silver is believed to have been kidnapped by Hamas militants during the group’s attack on Israel.

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He said there had been “discreet efforts” to reach out to connections in Gaza. “It’s not concrete. The fact that I’m talking as if she is being held there is because of these efforts, so its not certain but we have reason to believe.”

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Judith Weinstein Haggai, an Israeli-Canada, is also missing and possibly being held by Hamas. She was originally from from Toronto and lived at the Niroz kibbutz.

Her daughter, Iris, said when she last heard from her parents they were two kilometers from Niroz. They said they were lying face down in a ditch amidst a rocket barrage. Both were injured.

Six Canadian citizens died in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.


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