The deal for a hostage release brought both hope and agony on Wednesday to families of captives held in Gaza.
Uncertainty over the agreement — including over who would be among at least 50 hostages set to be released, and whether more would follow — was straining the emotions of relatives who have campaigned for the release of their loved ones in the 46 days since they were abducted during the Hamas assault on southern Israel.
Israel has said that about 240 people were taken hostage to Gaza, and it remained unclear which of them would be released under the cease-fire deal announced overnight. Cease-fires in previous conflicts between Israel and Hamas have proven fragile.
Hours after the deal was announced, families said they had received no official information from the Israeli authorities. The government said in a statement that women and children would be released, raising the possibility that families could be separated — for example, by leaving behind fathers who were taken captive with their children. At least 36 Israeli civilians ages 18 and under are being held in Gaza along with 13 of their mothers.
“I am feeling like yesterday and the day before, only worse,” said Yael Engel Lichi, the aunt of Ofir Engel, a 12th grader from Jerusalem who was kidnapped on Oct. 7 from Kibbutz Be’eri, where he was staying with his girlfriend, Yuval Sharabi, 17, and her family.
People have been calling to congratulate the family since Tuesday night, Ms. Engel Lichi said on Wednesday morning. But, she added, “We don’t know anything. No official has been in touch to tell us anything.”
“We are on the point of collapse,” she added.
Mr. Engel was taken hostage along with his girlfriend’s father, Yossi Sharabi. Mr. Sharabi’s brother was also abducted in Be’eri and his wife and children were killed. A nephew was killed at a music festival taking place nearby.
“Imagine the feelings within that family,” Ms. Engel Lichi said of the Sharabis. “It’s hard. It breaks you a bit more and a bit more.”
For others, the announcement of the deal was the first good news they had heard since Oct. 7.
“We are full of hope,” said Aharon Brodutch, whose sister-in-law, Hagar Brodutch, 40, and her three young children, Ofri, 10, Yuval, 8, and Uriah, 4, were snatched from Kibbutz Kfar Azza. “At least for our family, it’s supposed to end,” he said, “but then we’ve got to worry for the rest of the hostages.”
Avichai Brodutch, Hagar’s husband and the father of the three children, began a vigil a week after their abduction outside the military and government headquarters in Tel Aviv, feeling that the country was more focused on revenge against Hamas than freeing the hostages. He turned up with the family dog and a homemade sign that read, “My Family is in Gaza.” He was soon joined by masses of supporters.
Some families of older male hostages who were not expected to be among the first to be released expressed frustration and despair.
Shay Benjamin, whose father Ron, 52, was taken captive while on an early morning bike ride near Be’eri, said she had put her life on pause since her father was abducted, and worries that there is no end in sight. Noting that it took almost 50 days to reach this deal, she said: “Just think how much time it’ll take them to do another deal for the men.”
Ms. Benjamin said she would be glad if the children are released, but added: “Everyone deserves to come home.”