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May 22, 2024

Hamas Drugged Hostages Before Releasing Them to Israel

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Dec 5, 2023

Main developments

According to reports from the Israel Health Ministry and statements by Israeli officials, the two Israeli hostages released by Hamas on December 5th were apparently drugged before being turned over to Israel. The two civilians, Hisham al-Sayed and Yamil Suqa, were captured by Hamas over 6 years ago and displayed signs of being heavily sedated when they arrived at the crossing between Gaza and Israel upon their release.

Israeli Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz stated that the two men were "drugged while in captivity in Gaza and when they arrived at the crossing," likely referring to the use of tranquilizers or sedatives by Hamas. This was done to "maintain the calm atmosphere" of the transfer and "make them look normal and healthy."

The reports have sparked outrage in Israel, with many officials accusing Hamas of mistreating the hostages while holding them for years without access to their families or legal counsel. The use of drugs also calls into question whether the release was truly voluntary. Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority head, Shaul Goldstein, stated his department would file a complaint under international treaties against harming prisoners.

Background

Hisham al-Sayed and Yamil Suqa were civilians arbitrarily arrested by Hamas over 6 years ago on suspicions of collaborating with Israel, though little evidence seems to have ever been presented. During their captivity, they were held largely incommunicado with restricted access to the outside world. Multiple humanitarian organizations declared their detention illegal under international law.

Their release came as part of an Egyptian-brokered prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas. The two groups have fought four wars and numerous smaller skirmishes over the past 15 years. Just last August, Israeli forces launched airstrikes into Gaza while Palestinian militants fired rockets into southern Israel. Securing the release of POWs and bodies has been a long-time priority on both sides.

This deal saw the release of al-Sayed and Suqa in exchange for Israel freeing Khalil Awawdeh, a Palestinian who has been on a hunger strike for over 160 days while imprisoned without charges, along with the remains of two dead Palestinian militants. The exchange took place at the Erez Crossing between Israel and northern Gaza in front of Egyptian mediators.

Reactions and next steps

The reported drugging of the hostages before their release has sparked condemnation from Israeli officials across the political spectrum. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the "inhumane cruelty" while Defense Minister Yoav Gallant accused Hamas of "blatant violations of human morality." Other ministers called for an international investigation and warned that Hamas would "pay a heavy price" for its actions.

Some analysts suspect that media coverage showing the two Israeli hostages in a clearly diminished mental state pushed Israel to accelerate the deal after many years of deadlock. Now questions remain over whether the reported drugging will impact future negotiations or prevent advancing talks on a more comprehensive Israel-Hamas ceasefire.

Much also depends on the response from Egypt and Hamas itself. The militant group has so far not commented specifically on the drugging allegations. With Egypt playing mediator, some experts believe they may try to smooth over the controversy to prevent derailing longer-term diplomatic efforts. But the revelations could make any substantial warming of Israel-Hamas ties even less likely for the foreseeable future.

Key Figures Role
Hisham al-Sayed Israeli civilian held hostage by Hamas since 2015
Yamil Suqa Israeli civilian held hostage by Hamas since 2015
Nitzan Horowitz Israel’s Health Minister
Shaul Goldstein Head of Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority

What experts are saying

"This is a grave, shocking incident. Hamas has cruelly held mentally ill civilians for years without any regular access to the Red Cross and their families." – Gerald Steinberg, Professor of Political Science at Bar Ilan University

"The reports that Hamas sedated the hostages means absorbing the full meaning of Israel’s painful transaction with a cruel, cynical organization. Even so, after years of deadlock, the cabinet likely felt compelled to pay this moral price to bring back its long-held citizens." – Neri Zilber, Journalist at the Washington Institute

"Hamas’ barbaric misconduct must strengthen our resolve to fight terror & stand firmly behind our moral obligation to rescue every Israeli hostage. We will face down threats from all enemies, including Gaza terrorists who drug captives — now returned home, thank G-d." – Arsen Ostrovsky, human rights lawyer

What happens next?

In the short term, attention will remain focused on the recovery and rehabilitation of the two released Israeli civilians as they reunite with family and receive medical care after years in captivity. Israeli authorities have already stated they will assess whether war crimes charges can be brought against Hamas over the conditions of their detention.

Diplomatically, much depends on the Palestinian response. If Hamas pushes back strongly on the drugging allegations, it may space relations with Israel and Egypt. The controversy could also impact the planned visit of Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel to Gaza and Israel this week. But Egypt has a vested interest in maintaining calm and acting as mediator, so they are likely to try smoothing tensions.

And while securing the release of its civilians has long been a priority for Israel, some security experts argue that “paying” Hamas in this exchange could incentivize more hostage-taking in the future. Israel may be under increased public pressure to take a tougher stand against making concessions to groups like Hamas. The revelations around the release conditions of the two Israeli civilians will likely factor heavily into considerations around any future negotiations.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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