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Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Israeli hostages: What we all know in regards to the folks captured by Hamas in Gaza

Stress is mounting on the Israeli authorities to discover a strategy to retrieve over 200 hostages at the moment held by the Palestinian militant group Hamas because the Israeli Protection Drive’s floor offensive into Gaza will increase in depth. 5 hostages have now been freed — 4 launched not too long ago by Hamas, and one rescued through the Israeli floor assault.

Because the hostages’ captivity stretches on, nevertheless, divides have gotten obvious each inside Israel and amongst its companions. Households of the hostages have known as on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to contemplate an “all for all” trade — buying and selling each hostage taken by Hamas for each Palestinian prisoner held by Israel. Israeli officers have mentioned they haven’t fully dominated out the proposal, however that they consider a navy offensive is the most effective technique proper now. Netanyahu reiterated in a speech on Monday that he believes the continuing “floor motion” by Israel will create the potential for hostage rescue, just like the profitable retrieval of an IDF soldier this week.

“Hamas is not going to do it until they’re below strain,” Netanyahu mentioned.

The deadlock follows a brutal assault by Hamas on Israel on October 7, throughout which it’s estimated to have killed 1,400 civilians along with the hostages it captured. After that incursion, the Israeli authorities retaliated by conducting devastating airstrikes on Gaza, proscribing meals, water, and gas to the individuals who stay there, and launching a floor invasion some observers worry may result in a wider battle.

The violence in Gaza has killed over 8,000 folks, most of whom had been civilians, based on the Gaza Well being Ministry. Hamas has additionally claimed that almost 50 hostages have been killed in Israeli airstrikes, a determine that hasn’t been independently verified. One German Israeli girl beforehand believed to have been taken hostage has been confirmed to have been killed, although it’s unclear precisely when and the way she died.

There’s quite a bit that’s nonetheless unsure in regards to the steps Hamas may take subsequent and its strategy to negotiations. Given the scenario thus far, and the group’s previous practices, nevertheless, right here’s what we do find out about who the hostages are, what Hamas needs, and which events have been concerned in talks.

Who’re the hostages?

The hostages embody greater than 200 individuals who had been captured by Hamas in Israeli border cities, at an out of doors music competition, and at navy bases on October 7. They embody many civilians of various ages — together with older adults, a 9-month-old child, and kids — in addition to navy service members, based on the New York Instances.

Greater than half of the hostages are believed to have overseas passports and reportedly come from 25 totally different nations, together with Thailand, the US, Argentina, France, Germany, and Russia, based on the Israeli authorities.

The households of hostages have fought to maintain their family members a high precedence within the ongoing Israel-Hamas battle, with some forming a company known as the Hostages and Lacking Households Discussion board, which is devoted to pushing for his or her return.

“I’m telling my authorities — I don’t care what the worth is, it’s important to pay it,” Lior Peri, the son of one of many hostages, advised the Monetary Instances. “We’re ensuring that no person forgets the kidnapped and lacking folks. The ladies, youngsters, the aged,” Meirav Gonen, whose daughter is believed to have been taken hostage, advised the Nationwide Publish. “We should maintain this concern on the forefront, not simply in our nation however world wide.”

Gonen mentioned her daughter, Romi, 23, is somebody who “loves folks’’ and “is simply attending to know the world.” She’s amongst the hostages that had been thought to have been taken from the music competition.

“[I] advised her how a lot I really like her and the way a lot she’s liked, and what we are going to do when she comes again house,” Gonen advised the AP in regards to the final dialog they’d.

At night, men and women dressed in black hold posters with color photos of various hostages, each bearing the name of the person in the photo in English and Hebrew, their age, and the words “Bring Him Home Now!”

Protesters reveal in Tel Aviv on October 24, calling for the discharge of hostages.
Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Instances/Getty Photographs

Michael Levy’s brother, Or, 33, can also be among the many captives and somebody he describes as a superb pc programmer who’s “at all times smiling, at all times glad.”

Levy’s mother and father advised the AP that Or’s 2-year-old son has been asking for his mother and father, together with his mom who was killed within the October 7 assaults, for the previous two weeks. Adva Adar’s grandmother Yaffa Adar, 85, was taken hostage on October 7 and is the “glue of our household,” Adva advised the AP.

Many members of the family have burdened the significance of bringing the hostages again house and urged the Israeli authorities to do extra. “I need him again now…to his house,” Miri Benami advised Al Jazeera, about her 24-year-old son Yosef, who’s believed to have been kidnapped by Hamas.

Three of the hostages — Yelena Trupanob, Danielle Aloni, and Rimon Kirsht, based on Netanyahu — have appeared in a video launched by Hamas, although it’s unclear if the message they delivered was considered one of their very own or one thing crafted by the group. Solely Aloni speaks within the clip; her remarks blame Netanyahu and his authorities’s “political, navy, and safety failure,” and advocate for Israel to launch all Palestinian prisoners in trade for these held in Gaza.

Why did Hamas launch a couple of of its hostages?

The hostages Hamas has launched thus far are Judith Ranaan, 59, and Natalie Ranaan, 17, an American mom and daughter; and Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, and Nuri Yitzhak, 79, two Israeli residents. Throughout its floor offensive, Israel additionally freed IDF Pvt. Ori Megidish as a part of what its officers described as a particular operation.

Hamas has mentioned that it determined to launch its first hostages based mostly on “humanitarian” causes, a declare that hostage specialists dismiss as a result of the act of taking hostages is a warfare crime, a violation of the Geneva Conventions, and a continuation of brutal actions the group has taken.

Extra doubtless, Hamas’s choices are based mostly on making an attempt to enhance its picture and trying to reveal that it’s a reputable associate in negotiations, says Christopher O’Leary, the previous director of hostage restoration for the US authorities and a senior vice chairman for the Soufan Group.

If the group continues to let hostages go, it may launch civilians in batches, O’Leary theorized. And if it follows a sample Palestinian militant teams have used previously, Hamas has in all probability organized the hostages into teams based mostly on totally different traits — like whether or not they’re civilians, overseas nationals, or service members. Hamas will in all probability maintain Israeli troopers the longest as a result of they see them as key leverage for potential prisoner exchanges or different longer-term calls for, O’Leary guessed.

“If I used to be to invest, I might say the subsequent group to return out can be girls and kids, as a result of it [attempts to put] them on larger floor in comparison with the Israelis within the international group and public notion,” says O’Leary, who notes that Hamas might wish to draw a distinction with the Israeli authorities’s actions in Gaza, together with airstrikes which have killed 1000’s of youngsters.

O’Leary additionally anticipated that Hamas would maintain overseas nationals and stagger their releases as a result of it helped to take care of strain on totally different nations’ governments. It’s value noting that there’s nonetheless quite a bit that we don’t find out about how the group might strategy worldwide or Israeli captives, nevertheless. In a go to to Moscow following the assault, a Hamas spokesperson Abu Marzouk advised a Russian state information outlet that the hostages’ nationalities had been much less related in terms of negotiations: “All these captured, for us, are Israelis.” Marzouk burdened Hamas wouldn’t launch overseas hostages until there was an settlement for a ceasefire.

What’s Hamas’s historical past of taking hostages?

Hamas’s latest actions are in step with Palestinian militant teams’ historical past of utilizing hostage-taking as a tactic to attract consideration to their trigger and to extend leverage in negotiations with Israel. Beforehand, there have been a number of cases of teams together with Hamas taking hostages. In 2006, Hamas kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, in the end exchanging him for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in 2011.

Al Loh, dressed in a green ball cap and came shirt, seems to hold back tears, his face tight and eyes closed as his mother, dressed all in white, hugs him tightly and kisses his cheek.

Jalal al Loh, one of many Palestinians freed in trade for Gilad Shalit, returns to Gaza in 2011.
Lynsey Addario/Getty Photographs

The group additionally captured and killed Israeli troopers in 1989 and 1994, spurring a wave of Israeli arrests of Hamas members. And in 2014, Hamas kidnapped and killed three Israeli youngsters, who the group had at one level hoped to commerce for Palestinian prisoners. That point, Israel responded with a whole lot of arrests together with that of a variety of Hamas leaders, and the incident fueled tensions between the 2 teams that contributed to the 2014 Gaza warfare.

“Beginning within the Nineteen Sixties, and all through the Nineteen Seventies, a handful of various Palestinian militant organizations used principally airplane hijackings to take massive teams of Israelis hostage, and to demand prisoner releases and prisoner exchanges and different concessions from the Israeli authorities,” says Northwestern College political scientist Danielle Gilbert, a professor who research hostage-taking practices. “Quick-forward to the Eighties, when militant organizations within the area began utilizing kidnapping as a particular type of hostage-taking violence, somewhat than utilizing airplane hijackings.”

Gilbert says that Hamas’s choice to take hostages is a continuation of those prior practices and likewise a continuation of the group’s alleged efforts to make use of civilians as “human shields.” Hamas has usually been accused by Israel of finding its bases or launching weapons in Gaza close to or in residential areas. Not too long ago, Israel claimed Hamas’s headquarters is positioned below considered one of Gaza Metropolis’s principal hospitals, for instance, an accusation Hamas has refuted. On this case, Hamas may very well be utilizing the presence of hostages in Gaza’s tunnels to guard its operatives.

Within the days instantly following the October 7 assault, Hamas threatened to kill a civilian hostage each time Israel focused Gaza civilians with airstrikes “with out warning,” although it has not repeated that declare within the weeks since.

General, it’s tough to say precisely how this hostage scenario will play out given how totally different it’s from Hamas’s previous practices, and the way a lot we don’t know. The group at the moment being held is without doubt one of the largest variety of hostages Hamas has ever taken, and is uncommon as a result of it consists of such a variety of civilians, along with service members.

What does Hamas need in trade for the hostages? What’s its longer-term technique?

Hamas doubtless has short- and long-term calls for associated to the hostages — together with some it’s publicly expressed.

Hamas is calling for extra humanitarian help to be distributed in Gaza in trade for the discharge of further hostages within the close to time period. That help consists of meals, water, and gas, the final of which has confirmed to be a barrier to an settlement resulting from Israeli authorities considerations that it may very well be used to provide rockets and extra assaults. Hamas has additionally reportedly demanded a ceasefire in trade for the discharge of extra hostages, based on the Wall Road Journal.

Israel claims Hamas has loads of gas to provide the folks of Gaza with. Up to now, based on the UN, roughly 12 vehicles of help per day are being allowed into Gaza, down from the roughly 500 a day that introduced items earlier than the siege.

One other of Hamas’s calls for is the discharge of Palestinian prisoners who’ve been jailed by the Israeli authorities. There are an estimated 5,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, together with Hamas militants. “The value to pay for the massive variety of enemy hostages in our arms is to empty the prisons of all Palestinian prisoners,” Hamas spokesperson Abu Obeida mentioned in a press release.

How are the hostages being handled?

The hostages launched thus far have shared narratives with the general public each instantly and not directly.

Lifshitz, one of many older adults let loose, has spoken in regards to the harrowing expertise of being kidnapped and held captive in considered one of Hamas’s Gaza tunnels. She says she was overwhelmed through the kidnapping in her kibbutz of Nir Oz and pushed away on a motorcycle. “I went by means of hell,” she mentioned of the kidnapping.

Lifshitz then remembers strolling right into a maze of tunnels that she describes as a “spiderweb” and being grouped with a handful of others from her kibbutz in an space the place all of them slept on mattresses. She says that members of Hamas mentioned “they consider the Quran and they won’t hurt us.” Lifshitz additionally mentioned she acquired meals and medical care whereas in captivity, and was handled “gently” throughout that point.

Lifshitz sits surrounded by colorful microphones stuck near her mouth. She wears her dark hair short, and has an intense look on her face, brows pressed together.

Yocheved Lifshitz speaks to the press following her return to Israel in October 2023.
Ilia Yefimovich/DPA/Image Alliance/Getty Photographs

The Ranaans’ members of the family have additionally spoken out about their seize and reunion, describing how their household was held up at gunpoint whereas ready on their kitchen flooring. In keeping with Good Morning America, 13 members of their household had both been kidnapped or killed through the October 7 assault, and so they had been nonetheless ready to listen to in regards to the standing of a lot of them.

Megidish has not spoken out publicly, however based on the IDF she is “doing nicely.”

O’Leary says he suspects that Hamas will wish to deal with the hostages nicely, each to maintain them alive, and so when they’re launched, their narratives will assist soften Hamas’s picture on the world stage following the violent killings and kidnappings it carried out on October 7.

“That is for an eventual transaction,” he notes. “So that you wish to maintain [them] wholesome, nicely fed, of comparatively respectable well being, sound of thoughts.”

He added that it was not “out of the query” that Hamas may hurt or kill hostages if the scenario worsened, however mentioned it was “unlikely” as a result of the group is thinking about sustaining the broader international assist that Palestinian rights have gained.

Who’re the important thing worldwide gamers right here and why?

The principle events concerned in these negotiations are the Israeli authorities, Hamas, Qatar, Egypt, and the US. To date, Qatar and Egypt have performed a key position in mediating the negotiations between Hamas, and the Israeli and US governments, as each nations have relationships with all three events. The US has no diplomatic ties with Hamas, which it considers a terrorist group.

Qatar is house to a Hamas workplace and has offered tens of millions of {dollars} in help to Gaza. Moreover, it has had robust ties with each the US and Israel. The nation was an vital get together within the launch of American hostages in Afghanistan in addition to in Mali and Niger, O’Leary notes. Egypt additionally has again channels with Hamas, which it’s beforehand negotiated ceasefires with as nicely.

“Usually in ransom kidnappings … the hostage taker makes the demand, the goal responds with a a lot decrease counteroffer over an extended time period, and so they maintain whittling away at one another’s positions till they discover a level that they’ll agree on,” says Gilbert of how the method may fit. “And typically if we’re excited about prisoner swaps, it is likely to be a protracted effort on either side to determine the quantity and the form of folks that every facet is keen to launch in trade for getting their individual or their folks house.”

Precisely how rather more Qatar and Egypt will have the ability to accomplish is unclear. Israeli leaders have explicitly said they really feel a navy technique is one of the simplest ways to free extra hostages, whereas a few of Hamas’s calls for — as famous above — have initially been rejected by Israel’s leaders.

What’s the best strategy to safe hostages’ launch?

The Biden administration reportedly mentioned and determined in opposition to making an attempt to rescue Hamas’s hostages in a US navy operation, a call that seems to weigh key dangers hostage specialists have cited.

“Throughout nations and over time, one of the simplest ways to get better hostages has at all times been by means of negotiations,” Gilbert says, “which has a better chance of bringing hostages out of captivity alive.” Whereas the strategy depends on the circumstances, together with the fast menace that hostages face, negotiations can decrease the chance each to hostages in addition to to particular forces that is likely to be concerned in a rescue effort.

The draw back of negotiation is how time-consuming the method may be in addition to the precedent such talks may set for rewarding hostage-takers for “egregious illegal habits,” Gilbert notes.

Makes an attempt at hostage rescue, in the meantime, are sometimes riskier. A lot of these missions are usually performed by particular forces operations on the bottom, however are depending on understanding the exact places of hostages. On this case, a mission like that is much more complicated given the variety of hostages and the idea that they’re unfold out in a difficult-to-navigate collection of tunnels.

“So that you can do a profitable hostage rescue, you want intelligence and data at a granular degree,” says O’Leary, of the info that’s usually required to mount a rescue mission. Whereas the US and its allies have robust data-gathering capabilities, it isn’t clear its navy — or Israel’s — has ample intelligence to successfully rescue the entire hostages with out rising the dangers they face.

Israeli leaders have repeatedly argued navy motion is the best strategy to strain Hamas into releasing extra hostages. A few of the hostages’ households query that strategy, nevertheless, expressing concern that navy operations danger additional harming the hostages in crossfire or by way of reprisals.

“We got here with an unequivocal demand that navy motion takes under consideration the destiny of the hostages and the lacking, and that any transfer thought of will keep in mind the well-being of our family members,” Gonen mentioned concerning a gathering between households of hostages and Israeli officers.

Israeli authorities officers have mentioned they’re centered on pursuing all of the channels accessible, however that it views navy motion as central.

“The extra navy strain, the extra firepower, and the extra we strike Hamas — the higher our likelihood is to convey it to a spot the place it should comply with an answer that may enable the return of your family members,” Israeli protection minister Yoav Gallant has mentioned.

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