Israel works to free hostages, with out understanding if they’re alive or lifeless | EUROtoday

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TEL AVIV — As Israel and Hamas attempt to hammer out the thorny particulars of a U.S.-backed cease-fire proposal, Israeli officers are searching for the discharge of the remaining hostages held in Gaza. But they don’t really know what number of of them are alive.

So far, Hamas has failed to supply Israeli negotiators with a listing of the remaining hostages, elevating fears that the group misplaced monitor of them amid the warfare — or worse, that it won’t wish to reveal what number of have been killed.

Israel says that 133 hostages are nonetheless in captivity, starting from toddlers to the aged, and that 36 of these hostages are confirmed lifeless.

But the fates of about 100 hostages — together with Israelis and overseas nationals, peace activists and troopers, moms and grandfathers — are nonetheless unclear, six months after the beginning of the warfare. The uncertainty will not be solely complicating negotiations but additionally leaving the hostages’ households in anguish.

The ache of every passing day “is almost exponential,” mentioned Jon Polin, father of 23-year-old Hersh Goldberg-Polin, a twin Israeli-American citizen who was kidnapped from an out of doors music pageant on Oct. 7.

In ugly footage posted by his captors, Goldberg-Polin is proven packed into the again of a truck, his arm blown off by a grenade. Maybe he was handled, Polin and his spouse, Rachel Goldberg, hoped. “We remain optimistic because we have no choice,” he mentioned.

On that day, Hamas and allied militants killed round 1,200 individuals in Israel and kidnapped 253 others, dragging them again to Gaza and kicking off a devastating warfare. Since then, 124 hostages have been both freed or launched, together with throughout a four-day pause in November, however none of those that returned house mentioned that they noticed Goldberg-Polin in captivity.

In Gaza, of their seek for hostages, Israeli forces have raided hospitals, dug up gravesites, and scoured tunnels utilized by Hamas to evade seize and conceal from Israeli bombs. They say they discovered packing containers of medication meant for the captives, DNA proof inside a tunnel, and safety digicam footage displaying hostage Shiri Bibas and one in all her two younger sons after she arrived in Khan Younis on Oct. 7.

In February, Israeli commandos freed two hostages in Rafah in southern Gaza in a rescue operation that killed not less than 67 Palestinians. Earlier this week, Israeli troops recovered the physique of Elad Katzir, 47, a farmer the army mentioned was buried by his captors south of Khan Younis.

But, for the households of the hostages, extra is unknown than recognized. Refael Franco, former deputy head of Israel’s National Cyber Directorate who ran hostage monitoring within the early days of the warfare, mentioned that as Israel’s intelligence dries up, it’s having bother estimating the place the hostages are. Because of this, he mentioned, Israel is apprehensive about miscalculating what number of are lifeless.

None of the hostages have been seen by the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Israeli authorities are beginning to hedge, saying that dozens are lifeless and dozens are alive, however not a lot else.

Still, Israeli officers signaled this week {that a} launch deal is perhaps within the offing.

“We are ready to pay a price in order to return the hostages,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant mentioned Monday, calling their return the military’s “highest commitment.” Also Monday, Foreign Minister Israel Katz mentioned that negotiations had reached a “critical point.”

The optimism got here as talks had been underway in Cairo on Sunday and Monday, mediated by Egypt, Qatar and the United States. President Biden final week ramped up the stress on either side to safe a deal.

The objective extra broadly is to achieve an accord that may halt the preventing, free the hostages and a few Palestinian prisoners, whereas rising assist to Gaza, which is getting ready to famine. At least 33,482 individuals, principally ladies and youngsters, have been killed in Gaza for the reason that battle started, in keeping with the Gaza Health Ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between combatants and civilians.

But whereas Israel desires the hostages launched, it is usually searching for to topple Hamas and sees an open-ended troop presence in Gaza as the best way to maintain the militants from regrouping. For its half, Hamas desires Israel to free lots of of Palestinian prisoners, permit displaced residents to return to northern Gaza, together with its personal members, after which withdraw utterly from the enclave.

On Tuesday, Hamas mentioned it was finding out the newest proposal however referred to as the phrases “nothing new.” The group has not mentioned publicly what number of hostages are alive and didn’t reply to request for remark.

For Sharone Lifschitz, whose 83-year-old father, Oded, stays in Gaza, the lack of knowledge in regards to the hostages is especially jarring, given the sheer quantity of footage emanating from the unique assault. On Oct. 7, Hamas and different fighters live-streamed the atrocities and flooded their social media channels with footage of the carnage. In some instances, the gunmen hijacked the victims’ social media accounts and despatched pictures of the lifeless or kidnapped victims to their family.

“We’re in this roller coaster of emotion that I never knew existed,” Lifschitz mentioned.

Her mom, Yocheved, was one of many first hostages launched by Hamas in late October. Yocheved and Oded, each peace activists, had been taken from kibbutz Nir Oz, lower than two miles from the Gaza border.

Also kidnapped from Nir Oz was Shiri Bibas, 32, her husband, Yarden, and their two younger sons, Ariel, 4, and Kfir, then 9 months outdated. Bibas was filmed on Oct. 7, terrified and clutching her youngsters as gunmen compelled them into captivity. The militants additionally recorded Yarden’s abduction and later launched a video during which he was compelled to say that his spouse and sons had been killed in an Israeli airstrike.

Israel has not confirmed their deaths however has instructed the household that they’re “very concerned” about their well-being.

“The heartbreak and anxiety is unbearable already,” mentioned Ifat Zeiller, a cousin of Shiri Bibas. After six months, she mentioned, our “message to the world has changed from ‘listen to us’ to … ‘don’t forget us.’”

Ofri Bibas-Levy is Yarden Bibas’s sister. At rally in Jerusalem on Sunday, she lamented that Kfir, the youngest hostage, wouldn’t be with the household for the upcoming Passover vacation.

“What can I tell my children, all of our children, about what has changed since October 7?” she mentioned. “There is no security, no trust — 133 hostages are still in hell.”