Peres fails to reassure families of captured soldiers

Regev's brother: His words are not enough; we want a sign that they are alive.

The families of the two kidnapped soldiers visited by Vice Premier Shimon Peres Monday were not reassured by his message that Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were "alive and well." Eldad's older brother Ophir told The Jerusalem Post that while he was grateful for the visit to his family's home, Peres's comments were "insignificant" and did little to alleviate the family's fear for his safe return. "His words are not enough. We want a sign that he is alive," said Ophir as he stood with his father Tzvi in a Haifa hotel handing out photographs of Eldad to a visiting delegation of Jewish leaders from Europe, in hopes that they would lobby their governments on behalf of Eldad. Regev, 26, and Ehud Goldwasser, 31, were abducted on the Lebanese border by Hizbullah on July 12, 16 days after Hamas kidnapped Gilad Shalit, 19, near the Gaza border. None of the trio has been heard from since. "We live in the darkness. We know nothing," Goldwasser's uncle told European Jewish Congress President Pierre Besnainou of France, who led the delegation. He noted that the families were "encouraged" by the declaration of Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh on Sunday that the soldiers were alive and well, but added, "What we are looking for now is proof that the three boys are in good health and are alive." He also asked Besnainou to "show us the way" when it comes to using the tools of public advocacy and diplomacy to get their loved ones back, since the families "are not the professionals." Besnainou assured them that he would arrange meetings with French officials and ambassadors from Arab countries including Lebanon when he returns to France Tuesday, as well as encourage Jewish communities across the continent to organize demonstrations and public appeals on the soldiers' behalf. Ehud Goldwasser's mom Mikki told Besnainou that the support of world Jewry "warms our hearts" and "gives us so much strength." When Peres visited the Regev family in Kiryat Motzkin and the Goldwasser family in Nahariya, he said he believed France could be a major player in helping secure their release. He also told them the Lebanese government had a "sense of responsibility" with respect to the welfare of the two men. Peres added that Hizbullah had been passing along information with respect to the two men to the Lebanese government. Regev and Goldwasser are "the sons of the entire State of Israel," Peres told the two families. Their release is a top priority for the government, he said. "We will not rest until they are returned." Members of the Eldad family said that they were lobbying help from everyone and were working to cling to a feeling of hope. "Each day that passes is harder than the last one," said Ofir Regev, who explained that in spite of the rocket threat to their suburb of Haifa and the northern coast, the entire family had gathered in his father's Kiryat Motzkin home waiting for Eldad to return. Ofir said that in these difficult days he wanted to be in the house where his brother's bedroom is and from where he left for the army. The family last saw Eldad at a memorial marking the eighth year since the death of their mother that occurred three days prior to his kidnapping. Eldad along with his three brothers and father visited her grave, watched the Mondial that evening and then he returned to the army, recalled Ofir. They last heard from him the night before his disappearance when he placed a routine call to his father. Then the family woke the next morning and heard the news of an attack along the border. When Eldad didn't answer his phone, they started to worry. We have been living in fear ever since, added Ofir.