Footage shows medication packages in Gaza tunnel where hostages were held

Boxes of drugs include anti-fungal vaginal tablets, insulin syringes and hypothyroidism treatment, as Israel awaits proof of delivery of medicine weeks after deal

Renee Ghert-Zand is the health reporter and a feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Screenshot showing medication packages from IDF video shot inside a tunnel beneath Khan Younis where 12 hostages were held. The video was released on February 7, 2024. (Courtesy of IDF)
Screenshot showing medication packages from IDF video shot inside a tunnel beneath Khan Younis where 12 hostages were held. The video was released on February 7, 2024. (Courtesy of IDF)

A video released by the IDF of a Hamas tunnel deep below Khan Younis where hostages were allegedly held shows containers of medications.

The military said Wednesday that a total of 12 hostages were held in a cell in the tunnel at different times, three of whom have since returned to Israel. A rest area and bathrooms for the terrorists guarding the captives were also found.

There is no narration during the part of the video in which the drug packages are shown. From the video, it is impossible to tell how many boxes are still filled with medication or to see their expiration dates, but other information, such as the type of medicine and where it was acquired, can be made out.

The IDF declined to provide any additional information that could shed light on this portion of the video. The Prime Minister’s Office also refused to comment.

The video’s release comes as there continues to be no update on whether the terms of a 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.

The Times of Israel was unable to establish whether the medication in the video was part of the supply transferred after inspection by Israel into the Strip for the hostages last month.

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 involvement in the delivery of medications. The international humanitarian organization has also not visited the hostages in the four months since October 7.

A protester against the Red Cross at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, December 14, 2023. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

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

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

“All the hostages need medicines and medical care to survive. The only way to ensure their survival is to free them immediately,” said Prof. Hagai Levine, head of the medical and resilience team of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum.

Some of the medication packages found in the tunnel appear to be crumpled and empty, while others are closed and in what looks like good shape.

It is not known whether these medications were given to the hostages, were used by their captors, or both.

Nili Margalit speaks to Channel 12’s Uvda on January 4, 2024. (Screen capture/Channel 12)

Nili Margalit, a Soroka Medical Center nurse who was one of over 100 hostages released in November, said in a Hebrew-language television interview last month that she had limited access to medication while trying to care for the sick and elderly hostages who were with her.

She recounted that she identified herself as a nurse to the terrorists and they allowed her to make a list of essential medications for the hostages. The terrorists supplied her with some of the medications, but never in enough quantities. Margalit recounted being as forceful as she could in persuading the captors to obtain more supplies.

Some of the drugs are indicated for use by women only. One box is labeled “For UNRWA use, not for sale,” referring to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

One box seen in the video is for clotrimazole anti-fungal vaginal tablets, which are inserted intra-vaginally to treat yeast infections. There is also a package for miconazole nitrate cream, a topical treatment for fungal skin infections like ringworm and conditions commonly known as athlete’s foot and jock itch. The cream can also be used for yeast infections of the skin or of the vagina.

There is what appears to be an empty box for Pantinol cream, which is used to treat skin abrasions, cuts and inflammation, as well as surgical wounds. It is also indicated for nipple inflammation due to breastfeeding.

One can see in the video two to three Citoswabs, which are used for collecting viral specimens, including for COVID-19.

Also visible is a plastic bag filled with several insulin syringes. There is also a box labeled for Levothyroxine, a medication for treating hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone to release into the bloodstream.

Screenshot showing medication packages from IDF video shot inside a tunnel beneath Khan Younis where 12 hostages were held. Red circles highlight that the drug is for women and that it was exclusively for UNRWA and not for sale. The video was released on February 7, 2024. (Courtesy of IDF)

Diabetes and hypothyroidism are among the many chronic illnesses listed in a document the medical and resilience team of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum presented to the International Committee of the Red Cross a week after the initial more than 250 hostages were seized and taken to Gaza on October 7.

Many hostages sustained serious injuries as they were taken captive. It is still unknown whether those hostages received proper care. Some of those hostages, as well as many others, suffer from ongoing illnesses and medical conditions that require daily medications and regular medical supervision.

In addition to diabetes and hypothyroidism, other illnesses of the hostages include cancer, heart failure, chronic kidney disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, Alzheimer’s, stroke, multiple sclerosis, cardiac arrhythmias, hypertension, asthma, allergies, glaucoma and psychiatric disorders.

The forum’s medical and resilience team provided the ICRC with a list of more than 100 medications required by the hostages. The Israeli government has also used this list in its attempt to negotiate the transfer of the crucial drugs to the hostages.

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