Body of hostage found near Shifa Hospital via BICom
What happened: The IDF yesterday recovered the body of Yehudit Weiss, a 65-year-old mother of five kidnapped by Hamas from Kibbutz Be’eri on October 7th.
- Weiss’s body was found in a building near Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, along with military equipment, including assault rifles and RPGs.
- “To our sorrow, Yehudit was murdered by the terrorists in the Gaza Strip. And we didn’t get to her in time,” IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said.
- Weiss’s daughter Zemer said, “it’s important for us to say that we fought, we battled in every possible way to bring mom, grandma Yehudit home. For us, it is too late, but it is important for us to support all the families of the hostages, and to tell the world, bring them home now, so that for them it is not too late, like it was for us.”
- The IDF also announced the recovery of the body of 19-year-old Cpl. Noa Marciano, another hostage, whose death it announced earlier this week.
- Troops discovered Marciano’s body in another building near Shifa hospital, with Prime Minister Netanyahu last night telling CBS that Israel has solid information that some of the hostages were held in the hospital.
- Asked about the prospects of a deal being reached to free some of the hostages, Netanyahu said “we are closer than before we began the ground action. The ground action has put pressure on Hamas to achieve a ceasefire. We’ll have a temporary ceasefire if we can get our hostages.”
- The IDF continued its attacks in Gaza last night, including air strikes and ground battles.
- Troops also raided a Palestinian Islamic Jihad outpost in northern Gaza, locating Iran-made Badr-3 rockets, drones, and other weapons.
- In raids on Hamas targets, troops founds assault rifles, explosive devices, RPGs, anti-tank missile launchers, and other equipment.
- In the north, the IAF attacked Hezbollah targets last night, and Hezbollah fired several anti-tank missiles at IDF posts near Biranit and Rosh Hanikra.
- Syria also claimed that Israel fired missiles at targets in the area of Damascus last night.
- In the West Bank, the IDF says it killed five Palestinian gunmen during an overnight counter-terror operation in Jenin.
- Seven wanted suspects were arrested in the raid, and weapons captured.
- US Secretary of State Blinken spoke with Minister Gantz yesterday. They discussed the hostages and increasing humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip. Blinken also expressed US concern over settler violence in the West Bank.
Context: Weiss’s husband Shmulik was murdered by Hamas in its rampage through Be’eri, his body discovered in the family safe room a week and a half later.
- A member of the Combat Intelligence Collection Corps 414th unit, Marciano was serving at the Nahal Oz IDF base when it was attacked by Hamas.
- On Monday, Hamas had released a video of Marciano four days after having been kidnapped, identifying herself and reciting the names of her parents and her hometown. The video then showed her dead body.
- Hostage negotiations are facilitated by a series of talks via the US, Egypt and Qatar and then onto Hamas leaders. The process is complicated by limited contact with Hamas leaders inside Gaza.
The contours of the deal being discussed are thought to comprise:
- Hamas will release 50 hostages, comprising children with their mothers.
- Israel will agree to three to five days of ceasefire.
- Israel will allow in more fuel and humanitarian aid.
- Israel will release 150 prisoners, including minors over 16, who have not committed murder.
- The security cabinet is thought to be divided on its approach to such a deal, with Defence Minister Gallant said to believe that Hamas is on the verge of collapse, with three IDF battalions making swift advances in Gaza.
- Gallant foresees this being the first of several hostage negotiations and so is eager to reduce the concessions made by Israel in return for the first group of hostage releases.
- Ministers, and war cabinet members, Gantz and Eisenkot are thought to be more pessimistic and think that the deal currently on offer might well be the only offer Israel receives.
- Any hostage deal will first be approved by the security cabinet, but according to Israeli law the whole cabinet needs to vote on it.
- The IDF has provided further evidence of Hamas’s widespread use of hospitals. A tunnel shaft with a car that was supposed to be used in the attack on the Gaza periphery communities was found inside Shifa Hospital, with multiple weapons inside.
- Weapons were also discovered in Al Quds Hospital, and a terrorist tunnel in Rantisi Hospital.
- Israel does not generally comment on attacks on targets in Syria.
- The US has expressed increasing concern over both the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the situation of patients and staff inside hospitals. It has also supported Israeli evidence of Hamas’s use of hospitals.
- Netanyahu said that Israel was engaging with hospitals “very gingerly because we’re trying to do the moral thing, the right thing, to deprive Hamas of having this safe zone in a hospital, but at the same time to neutralise its use as a command centre for terror. And so far we’ve achieved that.”
Looking ahead: Family members of the hostages are currently on the fourth day of a march from Tel Aviv to the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, which they are expected to reach on Saturday. They aim to keep the focus on the hostages and pressure the government to prioritise their safe return.
- Israel continues to search for tunnel shafts within the Shifa hospital complex, in the knowledge that Hamas had time to remove the most incriminating evidence and for key commanders to escape among the civilians.