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Family of an American held hostage by Hamas urges leaders to "do everything, and we mean everything, to bring them back"

Family holds out hope for son taken hostage
Family holds out hope for son taken hostage in Israel 02:38

Omer Neutra loves the Knicks. Growing up on Long Island, he was the captain of his high school basketball team, his volleyball team, "and when the soccer team needed a captain, he was captain of the soccer team," his father Ronen says. "That's the kind of guy he is."

Now, Omer's loved ones are fighting for their son and friend, an American who has dual citizenship and serves with the Israeli military.

Anguish for the family set in after representatives from the Israeli consulate in New York rushed to their home on Sunday, Oct. 8.

"They said that he's been taken captive," says his mother, Orna Neutra. "So many have died that it's just insane that you feel relief, to think that your son is not dead, you know?"

Last weekend, the family celebrated Omer's 22nd birthday without him.

"We had a cake with 23 candles," his mother said. "According to our tradition, you put an extra candle. They weren't blown out. We just let them melt into the cake. We said prayers together. It's just devastating." 

Omer Neutra
Omer Neutra Neutra family

Omer is believed to be one of the about 200 hostages currently held by Hamas. Israeli officials say Hamas' attack killed some 1,400 people and wounded 3,500 others. Biden administration officials say that at least 31 Americans have been killed and another 13 U.S. nationals remain unaccounted for.

The grandson of Holocaust survivors, Omer Neutra put off his plans for attending college at Binghamton University to study in Israel. He eventually joined the Israel Defense Forces.

Omer's brother Daniel describes him as a "a natural born leader" and "an amazing role model."

"Omer is an American-born kid that wanted to help his grandparents' homeland and defend it," his father, Ronan Neutra, said.

For Omer, joining the Israeli military was not an easy decision, his mother said. "He was crying over this. We were sitting on the floor in his room. And he was crying. He said, 'I don't know what to do. I really don't.'"

When the news broke of the attack nearly two weeks ago, Omer was serving as tank commander near Gaza.

His father scrambled to contact his son.

"Immediately I texted him," Ronen Neutra says. "Nothing. We called him. Nothing."

Omer's parents told CBS News the representatives from the Israeli consulate shared details with them.  

"We know that the Army did an investigation," Orna Neutra said. "From what they've shared and the videos that were shown, their conclusion is that him and his team have been taken."

Now the Neutras remain focused on getting Omer and other hostages back.

"This is not a time for tears," Orna Neutra said. "I need strong people around me to work together and put the influence on the American government, the Israeli government to do everything, and we mean everything, to bring them back as soon as possible."

In Tel Aviv on Wednesday, President Biden said there was "no higher priority" for him than securing the release of the hostages held by Hamas.

For now, the Neutras are holding tight to hope and positive thoughts, focusing on bringing Omer home.

"They've done nothing wrong," Ronen Neutra says. "Let them go home, it's not that hard. We are all humans."

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