Suozzi plans to meet with the families of Israeli hostages and...

Suozzi plans to meet with the families of Israeli hostages and Israeli constituents, his campaign told Newsday. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Former Rep. Tom Suozzi, the Democrat running in a special election for New York's 3rd Congressional District, is touring Israel this weekend to meet with families of hostages taken by Hamas as he and Republican Mazi Melesa Pilip, an Israeli military veteran, campaign on their strong support for Israel.

Suozzi, 61, of Glen Cove, and Pilip 44, of Great Neck, are running in the Feb. 13 special election to replace expelled former GOP Rep. George Santos.

On a Zoom call from Jerusalem Friday, Suozzi told reporters he had met with the parents of Omer Neutra, a missing Israeli soldier from Plainview, and would meet with families of other hostages over the weekend.

“It's clear to me that we have to communicate to people that Hamas is not some random, loose coalition of desert fighters,” he said. “This is a sophisticated, disciplined terror army that is set on destroying Israel and killing Jews.”

A spokesman for Nassau Republicans declined to comment about Suozzi's trip. 

Suozzi also is touring the “Gaza envelope” villages located in areas Hamas militants attacked on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people, primarily civilians but also many soldiers, and taking about 240 people hostage, according to Israeli authorities.

Gaza's Hamas-run health ministry said Friday that 20,057 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli attacks that have caused widespread destruction since Oct. 7. The ministry says the majority have been women and children.

Pilip, a first-term Nassau County legislator and a registered Democrat, is running on the Republican and Conservative lines. Born in Ethiopia, Pilip fled to Israel amid religious persecution and later served in the Israeli Defense Forces' paratrooper brigade as a gunsmith. 

Pilip says she arrived in Israel at age 12 as part of Operation Solomon, a covert military rescue mission that resettled persecuted Ethiopian Jews to Israel.

Pilip at her campaign launch last week vowed to “stand up to the extremes who want to destroy our way of life,” including those bent on “eliminating the State of Israel.”

The 3rd District's heavily Jewish areas include Great Neck, Roslyn, Plainview, Woodbury, Jericho and Port Washington. The district covers a sliver of Queens, Nassau County’s North Shore and dips south along the Nassau-Suffolk border to Massapequa Park. 

A key reason Pilip was chosen as the GOP candidate is her “very timely biography,” said J. Miles Coleman, associate editor with Sabato's Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

Suozzi “would definitely want to have his pro-Israel credentials at the forefront, at least to kind of burnish his credentials. I’m sure she’s talking a lot about her background,” Coleman said. This trip “may help him neutralize that from a political perspective.” 

Suozzi, who said his campaign is paying for the Israel trip, argued the district needs a pro-Israel Democrat both to counter those in the party who are “very loud” in their opposition to Israeli policies and to work with Republicans, who he said are more unified in their support of Israel.

“If you want to have bipartisan support for Israel for years to come, you need strong, outspoken Democrats that are willing to stand up for Israel despite the pressure that is coming,” Suozzi said.

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