Hamas released a propaganda video Monday showing three Israeli women held hostage by the terror group in the Gaza Strip berating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling on him to secure their release and accusing him of failing to prevent the terror group’s October 7 brutal onslaught.
It was unclear when or where the video of the women, whose statement was almost certainly dictated by their captors, was filmed.
Shortly after the video’s publication, the Prime Minister’s Office identified the women as Danielle Aloni, Rimon Buchshtab Kirsht and Lena Trupanov, and their families announced they would hold a press conference in the evening.
Aloni was kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists from Kibbutz Nir Oz, along with her daughter Emilia, 5. Her sister and brother-in-law and their twin 3-year-old daughters were also taken into Gaza as hostages.
Trupanov, her son Sasha and her mother Irena were likewise kidnapped from Nir Oz, while her husband Vitali was killed by terrorists.
Kirsht and her partner Yagev Buchshtab were seized at their home in Kibbutz Nirim.
The three were among at least 243 hostages dragged into the Strip by Hamas and allied terror factions during the shock assault on southern Israel three weeks ago, when some 2,500 terrorists stormed across the Gaza frontier in a multipronged attack and killed over 1,400 people, most of them civilians slaughtered in their homes and at an outdoor music festival.
The captives, also mainly civilians, include women, the elderly and children, some still in diapers. It is not clear how many of them are alive.
Since the October 7 attack, Hamas has released four hostages — an American-Israeli mother and daughter and two elderly Israeli women — in moves brokered by Qatar, which hosts both a US military base and Hamas’s political bureau.
In response to the massacres, Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas, which rules Gaza, and to pursue every avenue to secure freedom for all of the hostages. Alongside intense strikes, the Israel Defense Forces has sent troops and tanks into the Gaza Strip, but has limited its ground offensive, apparently in order to avoid endangering efforts to free the hostages.
As the IDF has intensified its operation in Gaza, Hamas is thought to be employing various psychological techniques to sow division and weaken Israelis’ resolve, while using the negotiations for the release of the captives it is holding to buy time and resources for its military campaign.
At the press conference held Monday evening, Aloni’s father said her family was happy to see proof of life in the video.
“We felt relieved to see that she’s alive and that we’re seeing her, because until today, we didn’t know any details at all,” said Ramos Aloni.
He noted that along with Danielle, his daughter Sharon, his son-in-law David and three of his grandchildren are also believed to be held hostage in Gaza.
“We’ve been left as a family of four, from a family of 10,” he said.
Aloni demanded the Red Cross take initiative and check on all the captives, mentioning that his daughter takes medications and needs them on a daily basis.
He also asked Qatar to do whatever it can to bring about the release of all the captives.
“Danielle and Sharon, girls, we see you, we love you, we hear you, we think about you every minute and second, and we’ll bring you home, amen,” said Aloni.
Avital Kirsht, Rimon’s mother, noted that her daughter appeared without her glasses, which she needs at all times.
“I’m worried,” Kirsht said. “Urgent medical assistance must be sent, to immediately deliver basic needs.”
Netta Alon and Shachar Cohen represented Lena Trupnov and her family, who have no extended family in Israel. Both are friends of Lena’s son Sasha and said they were happy to see Lena looking healthy and that they hoped the rest of the family was with her.
“It’s been 24 days and we’re still waiting for them,” said Alon.
Each of the families stressed how much it helps to have friends and others around them, even those they did not know them before their loved ones were kidnapped.
“Don’t leave us alone, this support is very important to us,” said Ramos Aloni.
Earlier, a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office denounced the hostage video as “cruel psychological propaganda” by Hamas.
“I embrace you. My heart is with you and the rest of the captives,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying, addressing the hostages’ families. “We are doing everything to bring home all the captives and those missing.”
In remarks to reporters Monday evening, IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari similarly accused Hamas of employing “psychological terror” against Israel.
“And precisely because of this, we must show strength and composure. We must not cooperate with the mind games of Hamas, that way we will succeed in defeating it,” he added.
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid, meanwhile, said he had told the government that he would support any effort to return hostages from Gaza.
“We will give our full backing to any decision and any step, as well as to any price that will lead to the return of the hostages,” Lapid said at the start of his Yesh Atid party’s faction meeting at the Knesset.
“At the same time, we need to take painful steps to make sure they come home,” he added, saying that the social contract between citizens and the state is “broken” until all the captives — Israeli and non-Israeli — are repatriated.
On Sunday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant dismissed a purported Hamas offer to free all captives it holds in exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails as “psychological games” by the terror group, pushing back against calls by some families to take the ostensible deal.
“If there is no military pressure on Hamas, nothing will progress,” Gallant said while meeting with relatives of some of the hostages known to be held by Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza.
The talks with Gallant came a day after Netanyahu held a similar meeting on Saturday, following complaints that the government was not devoting sufficient attention to the issue.
Also Saturday, Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, said the group was ready for an “immediate” prisoner swap with Israel.
A day earlier, Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida demanded that Israel release all Palestinians imprisoned for terror-related offenses in return for the Israeli hostages the group is holding, AFP reported. Dozens of the hostages are believed to be held by terror groups other than Hamas.
Anger at the government has grown among the hostages’ families in recent days as Israel has launched the first stage of its ground incursion into Gaza, which some of the relatives fear might risk the hostages’ lives.
The meetings with Netanyahu and Gallant were the first the families have had with the pair, and came after they issued a public demand to be allowed to speak with them.
Gal Hirsch, the government’s point man on the hostage issue, said Sunday that negotiations are ongoing and every effort is being made to reach the abductees and get information. “We really want to succeed in this and bring all the families back home, safe and sound,” Hirsch said.