Two American hostages released as Israel-Hamas war rages

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The release of two American hostages is a bittersweet moment for the families of some 200 captives still being held by Hamas.

Earlier on Friday, before the two hostages were freed, many of those families were at a ceremony in Tel Aviv where a Shabbat dinner table had been laid with 200 empty place settings, each one representing a hostage.

Among those attending were the parents of 21-year-old Omer Shem Tov, who was kidnapped by Hamas on October 7 while he was at the Nova music festival.

Omer’s parents spoke with CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, describing the frantic and terrified moments they last heard from their son over the phone when the Hamas attack began.

Omer’s father Malki Shem Tov remembered how each call became more and more panicked as Omer and his friends tried to escape the Hamas gunmen.

He recalled Omer saying “I love you, I love you” over the phone.

Shelley, Omer’s mother, said her son managed to jump in a car and turn on live location so they could track where he was going.

Soon their worst fears were realized as the marker began heading in the wrong direction. 

“Not coming home at all. It’s moving toward the border [with Gaza],” Shelley recalled the family thinking.
“Then in the evening, we got a video that was published by Hamas that Omer is a hostage over there. We saw Omer in the back of a pickup,” Malki said.

For nearly two weeks now they have waited for news. And two Shabbat meals have now passed without their son at the family dinner table.

Shabbat (Hebrew for the Sabbath) begins each Friday at sunset and ends at sundown the following day.

It celebrates the seventh day of creation in the Book of Genesis, a holy day of rest and reflection after the labors of the week and is often a time when Jewish families gather for meals and prayer.

Asked what her message would be for Omer, Shelley gave a heartbroken mother’s reply, saying “That I love him, that I miss him.”


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