what we know about the hostages held in the Gaza Strip

The families of the hostages are still hoping for a ceasefire agreement with the Palestinian Islamist movement which would allow the return of their loved ones held in the enclave since the October 7 attacks.


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Relatives and families of the hostages demonstrate in Tel Aviv (Israel), May 4, 2024. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Seven months after the start of the war, the release of hostages remains a hot topic in Israel. After Hamas’ announcement of the adoption of a proposed ceasefire with Tel Aviv on Monday, May 6, the families and loved ones of Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip called for support to a truce agreement with the Palestinian Islamist movement. “Negotiate now! There is no other option!” demanded the Bring Them Home Now association in a message published Monday May 6 on the social network 2023.

Some 128 people still captive

Israeli authorities and the Israeli newspaper Haaretz mentioned, Tuesday May 7, 128 hostages still in captivity. In October 2023, Hamas commandos and several Palestinian groups kidnapped nearly 250 hostages in the border regions of the Gaza Strip.

Concerning the profile of the hostages still held in the enclave, it is quite varied. These are soldiers, residents of kibbutz located near the border, foreign agricultural workers or spectators of the Nova festival… Included on this list of hostages are 15 women, including five army soldiers aged 18 to 19 years old. Three French nationals, including two Franco-Israelis and one Franco-Mexican, are still detained in the Gaza Strip.

After seven months of war, 112 men, women and children were released, according to a count established by Haaretz. A significant part of these releases was obtained in favor of a one-week truce concluded at the end of November. A total of 105 hostages, mainly women, foreign nationals and children, were released by Hamas in exchange for 240 Palestinians detained by the Jewish state. Five hostages had previously been released in October, before the truce. Two other people kidnapped in October, with Israeli and Argentinian nationality, were rescued during a military intervention in early February.

Around thirty hostages presumed dead

However, it is not certain that all of these hostages are still alive. The Israeli army has repeatedly confirmed the death of hostages in captivity. At the beginning of February, the New York Times revealed that the Israeli intelligence services estimated in a note at least 30 the number of hostages who died in custody. “We have informed 31 families that their captured relatives are no longer among the living and that we have declared them dead”confirmed IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari during a press briefing.

This figure now stands at 34, according to Haaretz. For their part, the Israeli authorities now report 35 hostages declared dead. But proof of the vagueness surrounding these figures, it It regularly happens that victims, initially considered hostages, are identified as killed in the October 7 attack. The IDF clarified on May 3 that the remains of Eliakim Livman, until then considered a hostage in Gaza, had been discovered in Israel. As explained The Times of Israelhis body was buried by mistake.

Difficult detention conditions

Very little information is available on the state of health, location or conditions of detention of the hostages. “This is one of the most scandalous aspects of the treatment of hostages. Hamas systematically refuses to give a list of captive people and to provide information on the conditions of detention”, says Daniel Shek, former Israeli ambassador to France, who advises the families of the hostages. In several videos released by Hamas, hostages testified to difficult conditions of detention. “We are in danger here. There are bombs, it’s stressful and scary”declared Keith Siegel, 64 years old.

The main information comes mainly from former captives, released during the November prisoner exchanges. “We know that the conditions are extremely harshexplains Daniel Shek. There have been cases of rather humane jailers, but others have shown incredible cruelty, particularly towards women.” The hostages “lack food, fresh air, light and drinking water. Medical care is almost non-existent”further specifies the former diplomat.

At the beginning of February, the CNN television channel broadcast images of an underground complex located under the city of Khan Younes. It is presented by the Israeli army as the former detention center for several hostages, a place marked by darkness and humid air. According to the BBC, a third of those detained suffer from chronic illnesses. At least seven septuagenarians and four octogenarians are still presumed captive.

The location of those captured also remains a mystery. At the gates of Rafah, the Israeli army justified its probable military offensive in the south of the Gaza Strip by the presence of hostages. “We also have hostages in Rafah and we will do everything in our power to bring them home”, Army spokesman Daniel Hagari said in mid-April.

source site-29