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Hamas releases video of 3 women abducted from Israel

GAZA — Hamas released yesterday a video showing three of the more than 230 people Israel says were seized by Palestinian militants in massive October 7 raids that triggered an all-out war in Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the anguished images of the three women as “cruel psychological propaganda” and vowed to “do everything to bring home all the kidnapped and missing people”.

In a statement, Netanyahu named the hostages as Yelena Trupanov, Daniel Aloni and Rimon Kirsht, who were referred to in Hamas’s 76-second video as “Zionist detainees addressing a message to Netanyahu and his government”.

The Israeli premier, who has faced mounting domestic pressure over the hostage crisis, said: “I embrace you. Our hearts are with you and with all the other people abducted.”

The second video Hamas has released since October 7 purportedly showing hostages speaking from captivity in Gaza comes as Israel steps up its air and ground assault on the narrow Palestinian territory.

Following the release of the video, friends and relatives of the three Israeli women shown in captivity came together to call on the international community to push harder for their release.

“This is our first proof of life,” Shahar Cohen, a friend of the Trupanov family, shouted in front of dozens of Israeli and foreign journalists in Tel Aviv late Monday.

“As both an Israeli and an American citizen, I’m personally asking you, President Biden, please, do any and everything in your power to bring everyone home now.”

Earlier on Monday, the family of German-Israeli Shani Louk said they had been notified that she had died after being seized by gunmen at a music festival where at least 260 people were killed.

The three women in Monday’s video were seen sitting on plastic chairs against a tile wall at an undisclosed location.

One of them, speaking in Hebrew, urges Netanyahu to agree a prisoner exchange for the release of all captives.

‘Tremendous effort’

She makes agitated hand gestures and starts shouting, almost screaming by the end of the statement.

The two women sitting either side of her remain silent but on edge.

Israel says 239 people were seized by Hamas fighters who crossed the border on October 7 to launch surprise attacks on kibbutz communities, towns and military bases that killed 1,400 people.

Hamas’s armed wing has said that “almost 50” of the hostages had been killed in Israeli strikes, which according to the Hamas-run health ministry have also killed more than 8,300 people in Gaza, more than half of them women and children.

Israeli officials say the hostages’ ages range from a few months to more than 80 years.

Authorities believe the hostages are being held in a giant underground network of tunnels built by Hamas.

Four women including two US citizens have been freed following mediation by Qatar and Egypt.

Yocheved Lifshitz, an 85-year-old freed last week, said she was led through a “spider web” of tunnels after being abducted and taken to Gaza on the back of a motorbike.

Some photos and videos of hostages from the day of the raids were shared on social media, helping Israel identify them.

Hamas released a video showing Israeli-French hostage Mia Shem on October 16. Those images were condemned by the Israeli and French governments.

Netanyahu, whose government has acknowledged security failures before the attacks, met some families of hostages on Saturday and President Isaac Herzog met others on Monday following criticism that the relatives had been ignored.

The government now insists that bringing home the captives is a top priority.

“There is a tremendous intelligence and operational effort that history has not seen before, all to obtain any possible information,” government hostage envoy Gal Hirsch told families in a meeting over the weekend, according to attendees. — AFP

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