Foreign Ministry knew of efforts but was not involved

Families sent meds for hostages, and for Gazan children, in EU aid shipment – report

Medicines were purchased in Germany and entered Strip from Egypt; relatives set up WhatsApp group to coordinate on October 8, with first known shipment made in mid-November

Medication belonging to hostages found at Nasser Hospital, in southern Gaza's Khan Younis, in a handout image published by the IDF on February 18, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
Medication belonging to hostages found at Nasser Hospital, in southern Gaza's Khan Younis, in a handout image published by the IDF on February 18, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Relatives of hostages held by terrorists in the Gaza Strip set up a WhatsApp group on October 8 that started the process of coordinating deliveries of medications for their loved ones in the Strip, additionally supplying medicine and dialysis machines for Gazan children to be included in the shipments, Channel 12 reported Sunday.

It is still unknown whether any medication has reached the hostages.

The outlet had reported Saturday that dozens of containers of medication bearing the names of Israeli hostages in Gaza that were found by Israel Defense Forces soldiers at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis had been sent as part of a private initiative by relatives of several captives that did not involve Israeli authorities.

According to Sunday’s follow-up report, the initiative to get the medications to the hostages was started by the families on October 8, the day after they were kidnapped during the devastating Hamas attack on southern Israel.

The report said the relatives set up a WhatsApp group dedicated to the matter and immediately began working on the issue. It began with the relatives of those taken from Kibbutz Nir Oz, but eventually spread.

On October 10, health officials in the Hamas-run Strip were given a list of the medical needs of the hostages. The list was compiled with the cooperation of four Israeli hospitals, Channel 12 reported.

An IDF soldier shows medications meant for hostages held in Gaza found by troops at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis in a video released by the military on February 18, 2024 (Screen grab)

In the second stage of the operation, the required medications were purchased in Germany, with Romania also involved.

The report said the hostages’ families involved European Union representatives to help with the mission, and that while Israel’s Foreign Ministry was informed of the activities, it was not involved at any stage.

The medications entered the enclave from Egypt, where it landed in planes bearing humanitarian aid for Gaza sent by the European Union.

The report said the first shipment of medications for the hostages entered the Gaza Strip in mid-November, while a second was transferred at the end of December. These were the only deliveries known of at this time.

The report said that in order to emphasize that the shipments were humanitarian, the families of the hostages also supplied medications and dialysis machines for Palestinian children in Gaza.

On Sunday, the IDF released footage showing the medication at Nasser Hospital labeled with the names of hostages, some of whom are still being held captive by Hamas.

The medication apparently did not reach the hostages.

Channel 12 said the IDF was working to understand if all the medications found at the hospital came from the shipments organized by the families, or if any sent in a separate, official deal arranged by Israeli authorities via Qatar were also present, as it is still not known if any of those latter medications reached the hostages either.

The initiators of the medicine shipments by the families were Rotem Cooper, son of Nurit and Amiram Cooper who were both kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Oz, and Efrat Machikawa, whose uncle and aunt Margalit and Gadi Mozes were also abducted from the kibbutz. Nurit Cooper was released in October, and Margalit Mozes was released in a hostage deal in late November.

The pair worked in coordination with David Meidan — a former top hostage negotiator — along with local and international groups, and among others, Dan Sobovitz, a board member of the Jewish Secular Community Center David Susskind (CCLJ) in Brussels, who has led the European campaign on behalf of the hostages, Channel 12 said.

Two hundred and fifty-three hostages were taken on October 7, when Palestinian terror group Hamas led a devastating attack on southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people and committing wholesale atrocities. Over half the hostages remain in captivity.

Many of the hostages, including a number of elderly men, suffer from chronic conditions, making the delivery of medication essential. Efforts to negotiate their freedom from Hamas captivity have yet to bear fruit.

Efrat Machikawa, whose uncle Gadi Mozes is in Hamas captivity in the Gaza Strip since his capture from Kibbutz Nir Oz on Oct. 7, as families of hostages call out to their loved ones on loudspeakers in hopes that the hostages will hear, at the Gaza border in Kibbutz Nirim, southern Israel, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

The families behind the project revealed the details after the medicines were found by IDF soldiers in Nasser Hospital. According to the Saturday report, they wanted to send a message to Israeli leaders to “think outside the box” regarding the hostage situation and efforts to see them released. Negotiations for a hostage deal similar to one that freed some captives in November have reportedly ground to a halt.

On Friday, the IDF said that during operations at Nasser Hospital in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis, troops found medications with the names of hostages on them.

Troops had entered the hospital building on Thursday after surrounding it for a week, saying they had information that hostages had been held there and that some bodies of dead hostages may still be at the site. At least one released hostage has said that she and over two dozen other captives had been held inside the hospital.

Soldiers found mortars, grenades, and other weaponry belonging to Hamas inside the medical facility, along with the medications with the names of hostages on them.

IDF troops operate at Nasser Hospital, in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis, in a handout image published by the IDF on February 18, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Meanwhile, there continued to be no update on whether the terms of a separate deal announced by Qatar on January 16 for the delivery of medication to hostages were carried out. Beginning on January 17, medications were supposed to be supplied to the hostages in return for a large amount of medical supplies and other aid for Gazans.

As part of the deal, Israel demanded visual proof that the relevant medications reached each hostage. The Red Cross, which has been accused of shirking its responsibility to ensure medical care for the kidnapped Israelis, refused to be involved.

The international humanitarian organization has also not visited the hostages in the four and a half months since October 7.

Hili Cooper (with microphone) and Or Nohomovitch (right), tell protesters how they miss their grandfather, Amiram Cooper, held hostage in Gaza, at a rally for the release of Israelis kidnapped by Hamas terrorists, at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, February 10, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/ Flash90)

France, which played a major role in brokering the agreement, said it has begun to pressure Qatar to determine where the drugs for the hostages are.

Earlier this month, the IDF released a video showing medications found in a tunnel deep below Khan Younis where hostages had allegedly been held. There was no narration during the part of the video in which the drug packages were shown and the IDF declined to provide any additional information that could shed light on that portion of the video. The Prime Minister’s Office also refused to comment.

The Times of Israel was unable to establish whether the medication in the video was part of the supply transferred from Qatar.

Weekly Saturday rallies in Tel Aviv have called on the government to reach a deal for the release of the captives.

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