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Needham man appeals to Hamas to spare lives of five relatives taken hostage in Gaza

Jason Greenberg, along with his father Joe, poses for a portrait at his Needham home. Greenberg, who was in Israel on Saturday when the Palestinians launched their assault, was able to fly home with his 79-year-old father.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

After taking at least 150 hostages during its surprise incursion into Israeli territory, many of them older people and children, the militant group Hamas has threatened to execute a captive every time Israel bombs a Palestinian home without warning.

Five of those hostages are related to Jason Greenberg, who from his Needham home has anguished over their fate while desperately hoping the Islamist group can somehow be convinced not to follow through on their threat.

“I’m trying to send a message to Hamas that they don’t need to do what everyone thinks they’re going to do,” Greenberg said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “They don’t need to barter with the lives of innocent people who have done nothing to them, especially teenagers. That’s not going to help them win the minds and hearts of the international community. It’s definitely not going to help them win the war with Israel. It’s only going to enrage Israel more.”

Greenberg, who was in Israel on Saturday when Hamas launched its assault and was able to fly home with his 79-year-old father, said his relatives were smoked out of their home on a kibbutz near the border with Gaza and captured.

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No one in Greenberg’s extended family has heard from them since Saturday.

“I feel helpless,” he said. “It’s one of those rare times where you just have to sit there and watch it unfold and know that there’s nothing you can physically do about it.”

Greenberg said his relatives, including a sister who lives in northern Israel with her husband and three children, have watched social media postings showing their family members being taken hostage. He identified the missing relatives as his great aunt, Carmela Dan, 80, and cousins Ofer Kaldero, 50; Sahar Kalderon, 16; Noya Dan, 13; and Erez Kalderon, 12.

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Carmela Dan, his great aunt, has lived in Israel since its founding in 1948, Greenberg said, and lives a short distance from Gaza.

“When I visited them several years ago, you could see the daily normal life of Gaza from their front yard,” Greenberg said. “They’ve never experienced anything more than having to shelter in place ... never something like this.”

Jason Greenberg's missing relatives in Israel. Clockwise from top left, Erez Kalderon, Carmela Dan, Ofer Kalderon, Noya Dan and Sahar Kalderon.Family Photos

After the attacks began, Greenberg slowly convinced his father that he had to leave Israel for the time being. They flew to Rome and arrived home in Needham on Monday. His sister, Abbey Onn, booked a flight to Crete for their family, but the flight was canceled and she returned home.

Interviewed from Israel by CBS News, Onn said that Hamas gunman killed many people in the kibbutz where her relatives lived. On Sunday, a video was posted showing militants seizing Erez, 12, she said.

Onn said her relatives are not valid military targets and should not be used for political purposes.

“I want them to find a diplomatic solution. This is not the first time this country has been up against this kind of challenge. And they have an army and a government that knows how to solve this and they just need to do that,” she said. “I’m just trying to use my voice to make sure that the American people understand this isn’t political. This is humanitarian. These are civilians who are being terrorized and we want them brought home.”

Greenberg said he is making a plea on his relatives’ behalf for Hamas to “find another way to achieve its goals, rather than bloodshed of civilians.

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“No one can argue that Carmelo [and the four others] are combatants or threats,” he said. “They’re just pawns.”


John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him @JREbosglobe.