Middle East

Israel-Palestine war: Hamas shares footage showing release of Israeli woman, children

Hamas’s Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades published footage on Wednesday that purportedly shows some of their members releasing an Israeli woman and her children, who they said were held in custody during fighting with a nearby Israeli communal settlement.

The footage, aired by Al Jazeera Arabic, shows Qassam members releasing a woman who then walks towards a child who she then embraces, and leaves the area. Then, the child and woman, who is carrying another child in her arms, possibly a toddler, go on to walk in the opposite direction, according to Al Jazeera.

The news channel said the footage was filmed in the Kibbutz Holit communal settlement, which is located roughly five kilometres from the boundary separating Gaza and Israel. 

Middle East Eye could not independently verify the accuracy of the video, the claim, or when it was taken.

On Wednesday, an unnamed senior Turkish official told Reuters that it was working on regional efforts to negotiate the release of Israeli civilians. Qatar has been working on mediation efforts for the release of captives held, according to reports.

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Hamas has said it is preparing for a long battle with Israel, and earlier this week threatened to kill captives if Israeli shelling of civilian infrastructure without warning did not stop.

There are an estimated 150 Israelis being held captive by Hamas, including a number of dual nationals of other countries. The US has said that there are a “very small” number of American captives.

Hamas has stated that it will release its captives if Israel releases the thousands of Palestinians currently being held in Israeli detention.

There are about 5,200 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails, according to the rights group Addameer. A quarter of them are being held without charge or trial in a controversial practice known as “administrative detention”.

Why captured Israelis are so important for Hamas

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Mohammed Deif, the leader of Hamas’s military wing, has stated the armed group’s attack that began on Saturday came about in part because Israel had recently declined to participate in “humanitarian prisoner swap” agreements.

“Hundreds of our prisoners have spent 20 years and upwards in the darkness of jail cells. And tens of our brothers and sisters in prison have had their bodies exhausted by cancer and disease, and many have died as a result of medical negligence and premeditated slow murder,” Deif said.

Captured Israelis have been an important tool of leverage for Palestinians to facilitate the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails as part of prisoner-swap deals. 

One of the most well-known prisoner swaps was that of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas in 2006. He was held for more than five years before being released in a prisoner swap in 2011 in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinians held in Israeli detention.

It’s unclear how many Israelis will be captured by the end of this campaign, but depending on the number, it could lead to a prisoner swap that dwarfs any previous ones.

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