Israelis stranded in Athens are desperately trying to get home

Israeli soldiers

Israelis stranded in Athens are desperately trying to get home, reported Haaretz.

"They say you can hear people speaking Hebrew all over the world. At Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos on Tuesday morning, there was no shortage of Hebrew speakers, but the place was eerily quiet. All these Israelis wanted to do was to go home," the report said.

"Israeli airlines operate rescue flights from the city, causing Israelis from all over the world to converge there. At check-in, hundreds of worried Israelis gather to rejoin their families back at home or join their IDF reserve units," the report added.

Meanwhile, relatives of Israelis taken hostage in Gaza held up photos of their loved ones at a gathering of hundreds of EU politicians and officials in front of the European Parliament in a mass show of EU solidarity with Israel on Wednesday.

“We are here […] with all of you as one to express our solidarity, to condemn the appalling acts of terror and murder and to demand the immediate release of hostages,” Parliament President Roberta Metsola told those gathered, who included Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel and Israel’s Ambassador to the EU Haim Regev.

Shira Havron, a 27-year-old Israeli film student who was also present, told POLITICO that 11 family members were missing.

She lost contact with them at around 9 a.m. on Saturday when militants from Hamas — designated as a terrorist organisation by the EU — attacked their kibbutz near Gaza called Be’eri. The ages of her kidnapped family members, including aunts, uncles and baby cousins, range from 67 to just three.

“Ever since we just heard rumours, people who saw something, or people who know someone who saw something,” she said.

Havron said the EU “definitely” has the power to influence the situation. “They can put pressure on the Israeli government to do something, they can put pressure on Hamas,” she said, adding that many of the 11 family members are dual EU-Israeli citizens.

“So we hope to get help from that angle as well,” Havron added.

“One of my uncle’s phones was located in Gaza,” she added.

Jonathan Guttman, 31, said his cousin Evyatar David, who is 23, was taken as a hostage to Gaza. David was at the music festival in the south of Israel from where more than 260 bodies were recovered, Guttman said.

“I do appreciate the support [from the EU], we just need to translate it into some action,” said Guttman, who has just graduated from medical school in the Czech Republic.

“What I believe is just the obvious reality that hostages should not be … kept without any communication, without any guarantee of their safety,” he said, adding that his family has seen a video on social media of his cousin being taken handcuffed into Gaza.

He said one of David’s friends at the music festival was killed.

Havron and Guttman were on their way to meet Michel when they spoke to POLITICO in front of the Parliament after the event.

“This is not a time for whataboutism,” Metsola told the crowd, which included EU commissioners, MEPs, officials and members of the Jewish community.

“We have to be clear about what we are talking about. This is terror in its worst form,” she said.

Speakers blared the Israeli national anthem and the EU’s anthem; many people in the crowd sobbed throughout Metsola’s speech and the music. Everyone fell silent to mark a “solemn moment” in remembrance of the victims.

On Tuesday, the EU’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell — who hails from the Socialists family — condemned Israel’s assault on Gaza, saying that some of its actions — such as cutting off food and water supplies — are against international law and that the Palestinian people are also suffering.

Some politicians from the far left of the Parliament criticised Metsola’s decision to focus the event solely on Israeli victims — rather than Palestinians being killed in Gaza after Israel launched a retaliatory war on Hamas and besieged the Gaza Strip, cutting off water, electricity and food supplies.

Two far-left Irish lawmakers, Clare Daly and Mick Wallace, wrote to all MEPs ahead of the event to complain about its framing.

“A failure by our Parliament, at an occasion like this, to also recognise the tragedy of the loss of lives of innocent Palestinian civilians, including children, would be simply inhuman,” the pair wrote.

Senior MEPs representing six of the seven political groups in the Parliament attended the event, but the leadership of the Left group was absent.

“Our group is in Madrid this week, so we’re on study days. I’m sure one of our co-presidents would have gone if they had been here,” a Left group spokesperson said.

The Parliament is considering drafting a resolution tentatively entitled: “The despicable terrorist attacks of Hamas against Israel” when it meets in Strasbourg next week. However, the agenda will not be finalised until Thursday.

READ MORE: Cyprus court approves extradition of Israeli businessman Beny Steinmetz to Romania.

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