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Peace and Conflict

Hamas Releases Hostage Video | Update 25th April 2024

Hamas Releases Hostage Video via BICom

What’s happened: Hamas has released a new video of American-Israeli Hersh Goldberg-Polin, held hostage in the Gaza Strip since October 7th.

  • The 23-year-old, kidnapped from the Nova music festival, appears in the video missing his lower left arm. He is known to have sustained injuries when one of the October 7th terrorists threw a grenade into an area in which he and others were sheltering.
  • In the video, he says that he has been held nearly 200 days, indicating that it was made recently.
  • Goldberg-Polin’s mother Rachel, urging leaders to negotiate a hostage deal, said “Hersh, if you can hear this, we heard your voice today for the first time in 201 days and, if you can hear us, I am telling you—we are telling you—we love you, stay strong, survive.”
  • IDF Spokesperson Hagari said “this psychological terror video is not only a reminder of what Hamas did on October 7th, it is a reminder of how sick this terror group is, terrorising the hostages and their families too.”
  • “Until Hamas releases our hostages,” he added, “the IDF will continue to pursue Hamas everywhere in Gaza. We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to find our hostages.”
  • The Hostages and Missing Families Forum said in a statement that “Hersh’s cry is the collective cry of all the hostages – their time is rapidly running out. We cannot afford to waste any more time; the hostages must be the top priority. All the hostages must be brought home — those alive to begin the process of rehabilitation, and those murdered for a dignified burial.”
  • Meanwhile, preparations for an anticipated operation in the southern Gazan city of Rafah are intensifying. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office said yesterday the operation was “moving ahead”, though gave no timeline, while IDF Chief of Staff Halevi and Shin Bet Director Bar were in Cairo yesterday for meetings with their Egyptian counterparts.
  • The IDF has mobilised two reserve brigades for what it calls “defensive and tactical missions in the Gaza Strip.” “The brigades, which have so far operated along the northern border,” said the IDF, “have prepared in recent weeks for operations in the Gaza Strip.” Both are expected to be deployed to the central Gaza Strip, freeing units currently serving there for operations in Rafah.
  • The IDF has also continued intensive operations in the northern and central Strip this week.
  • In the north, Sgt. First Class (res.) Salm Alkreshat was killed in an operation in Beit Hanoun on Monday, while on Tuesday, four rockets were fired from northern Gaza at the Israeli city of Sderot, in an attack claimed by Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
  • Over the last day, two terrorists in central Gaza were killed attempting to launch rockets at Israel in one of more than 50 sites targeted by Israeli strikes over the past day. Another strike in Gaza City’s killed a group of Hamas operatives which had opened fire at troops in central Gaza, while a further strike in central Gaza’s Nuseirat killed a Hamas sniper cell. Yesterday, the IDF also struck Hamas launchers located in a humanitarian zone in southern Gaza.

Context: The video of Goldberg-Polin is the first proof of life of a hostage in several months, and is thought to have been made ostensibly as a gesture from Hamas to Qatar, which has brokered hostage release negotiations and has been pressured by the US to facilitate proofs of life, especially for US citizens like Goldberg-Polin.

  • The video was sent first to the Israeli and US governments, via Qatar, before then being made public.
  • It also functions as a cruel use of psychological warfare. Yediot Ahronot quotes an unnamed Israeli official as saying about the video: “Its purpose is to create domestic pressure in Israel. The messages in the video are directed at Netanyahu and the government. Hamas’s strategy is to sow internal chaos and, if possible, to bring about the government’s dissolution.”
  • Hersh’s injury was known soon after the event, when footage of the Nova massacre emerged.
  • Hamas kidnapped 253 hostages on October 7th. It is thought that 133 remain in Gaza, not all of them still alive, with the IDF having confirmed the deaths of 34.
  • Halevi and Bar’s meeting with Egyptian counterparts signals Israeli coordination of a likely operation in Rafah with its allies.
  • Such an operation can only be conducted following a massive evacuation of over a million civilians, the bulk of whom have fled to the city from other areas of the Strip to escape the fighting.
  • Temporary shelters have been set up in other parts of the Strip, at the initiative of Egypt and the UAE and in consultation with Israel.
  • UK media yesterday reported satellite images showing five field hospitals and a new “tent city” near Khan Yunis, also in the southern Strip. Israeli media is quoting government sources saying that the Defence Ministry has bought 40,000 tents, each with the capacity to shelter 10 to 12 people.
  • Hamas has itself begun to prepare for an incursion into its last stronghold, home to four of its remaining (previously 24) battalions. It has resupplied its fighters there with arms and supplies and has also reportedly increased the number of fighters guarding hostages located in the city.
  • Israeli liaison with Egypt is especially significant, given Cairo’s public opposition to an operation it fears could cause thousands of Gazans fleeing Rafah to breach the Gaza-Egypt border.
  • The intensification of IDF operations in northern and central Gaza – areas from which Israel largely withdrew several months ago – indicates that the operational presence of Hamas and other terror groups remains there.

Looking ahead: Both the war cabinet and the wider security cabinet are set to meet today to discuss the potential operation, as well as the state of hostage deal talks.

  • The Rafah evacuation process could take a further three to four weeks.

via BICom