As the war between Israel and Hamas continues in Gaza, Hamas has released multiple videos purporting to show the deaths of Israeli hostages held by the militant group.
Hamas Claims Hostages Killed in Israeli Airstrikes
On Sunday, Hamas’ armed wing released a video showing three Israelis it has held captive – two soldiers as well as a Bedouin Arab woman who crossed into Gaza in October. The video includes footage of damage to buildings apparently from Israeli airstrikes.
Hamas’ interior ministry identified the two armed hostages in the video as Yossi Sharabi and Itay Svirsky, claiming both were killed in Israeli airstrikes targeting the area where they were being held. A spokesman said “Many of the missing Israeli hostages have likely been killed” by Israel’s “criminal bombardment of civilian homes.”
Israel dismissed Hamas’ claims as “lies”, saying there is no evidence the hostages had been harmed or killed by Israeli bombardment. The Israeli military believes Hamas’ videos are meant solely as “psychological terror” against hostages’ families and Israel.
New Video Shows Apparent Bodies of Hostages
On Monday, Hamas released another video appearing to show dead bodies wrapped in shrouds, claiming they are Sharabi and Svirsky. Hamas’ military wing said it would not return the bodies of the hostages to Israel, sparking outrage among Israeli officials.
The Kibbutz Be’eri community in southern Israel released a statement confirming that Sharabi and Svirsky were killed while in Hamas custody. Family members were reportedly informed by Israeli authorities after analyzing the new video.
Calls for International Pressure on Hamas
Israeli leaders condemned the deaths as an “utterly bestial” violation by Hamas, pledging to bring those responsible to justice. Multiple countries urged the swift return of bodies and other captives held by Hamas.
A Qatari envoy is still negotiating with Hamas on the release of hostages, including 29-year-old Israeli Bedouin Noa Argaman. Her family pleaded for her release after the first video emerged, with her brother saying “Her life is in danger because of the bombarding.”
Analysts say Hamas continues to use civilian captives as bargaining chips, hoping to exert pressure on Israel or exchange them for the release of Palestinian prisoners. With over 430 Palestinians killed in Gaza in recent weeks, Hamas may also seek revenge or inflict psychological impact on Israelis.
Escalating War in Gaza
The videos’ release comes amid a major flare-up in violence between Israel and militants in Gaza. Over 50 Palestinians have been killed in an ongoing Israeli military operation targeting Islamic Jihad since last Friday. Militant groups have fired hundreds of rockets at Israeli communities.
Israel insists targets have been Palestinian extremists and weapon facilities, but Palestinian officials said women and children were among causalities. The sides appear no closer to resolving tensions underlying the long conflict, now in its 18th year since Hamas took over Gaza.
What Comes Next?
Israel is likely to step up offensive military operations targeting Hamas over the deaths, while continuing international mediation efforts to return Noa Argaman.
There may be increased calls on Israeli political and military leadership over a stalled strategy in Gaza, where civilian suffering continues.
Hamas could release more hostage videos to exert pressure, or Israel may work on prisoner exchanges to free those still held.
The tragic deaths of Sharabi and Svirsky after over 100 days in captivity brings renewed agony for both sides. But a ceasefire seems as distant as ever, with Hamas reiterating that “many hostages” may have perished amid Israeli strikes. For Gazans and southern Israelis living under constant threat of rocket fire and bombardment, there appears no end to the turmoil in sight nearly three weeks into 2024.
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