'The world must look at this cruel atrocity,' says Herzog

Hostage families release clip of 5 female troops’ abduction to push for their freedom

In footage, Hamas terrorist describes the terrified, bloodied soldiers as ‘women who can get pregnant’; father of Liri Albag asks: ‘What else can we do to wake the nation up?’

A still from footage showing the capture and abduction of Liri Albag, Karina Ariev, Agam Berger, Daniela Gilboa and Naama Levy at the Nahal Oz base on October 7, 2023. (The Hostages Families Forum)
A still from footage showing the capture and abduction of Liri Albag, Karina Ariev, Agam Berger, Daniela Gilboa and Naama Levy at the Nahal Oz base on October 7, 2023. (The Hostages Families Forum)

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum released harrowing footage on Wednesday showing the abduction of five female soldiers from the Nahal Oz base by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023, describing the video as a “damning testament to the nation’s failure to bring home the hostages.”

The video was taken by body cameras worn by Hamas terrorists that day as they attacked the base near the Gaza border, and it shows Liri Albag, Karina Ariev, Agam Berger, Daniella Gilboa, and Naama Levy. All five are still held hostage by Hamas in Gaza.

The families of the five soldiers asked to have the footage broadcast, with some of the parents saying that the goal is to wake up the nation, and especially the leadership, to work more urgently to secure their release. “I want you to broadcast this footage every day at the start of the news,” said Liri Albag’s father Eli, in the Channel 12 studio after the footage was screened, “until somebody wakes up.”

The three-minute edited video cleared for release begins inside a shelter on the base at around 9 a.m., when terrorists are tying the hands of the five young women, surveillance soldiers whose job is to monitor activity at the border and who appear shocked, horrified, wounded, and bloodied.

One of the terrorists yells at them, “You dogs — we will step on you!”

“I have friends in Palestine,” Levy, who participated in an Israeli-Palestinian coexistence project, says. Then Albag requests “someone who speaks English.” The terrorists respond by yelling at the captive soldiers to be quiet and ordering the group to sit down. “Our brothers died because of you. We will shoot you all,” one of the terrorists tells them.

Warning: Graphic footage

One of the terrorists then asks Albag to call his friend in Gaza, though it is unclear why, while another asks where they are from, to which Berger replies she is from Tel Aviv.

The footage cuts to the terrorists praying, still in the shelter. One of the terrorists describes the hostages as “women who can get pregnant,” in a translation provided with the video. (The term can also be translated as a “female captive.” It was also previously used by Islamic State terrorists to refer to sex slaves.)

“These are the Zionists,” one says, and another says: “You are very beautiful.”

The video cuts to the terrorists bringing the soldiers outside to their vehicle, as gunfire is heard in the background. Daniella Gilboa is limping, having been injured in the leg. It then cuts again to the soldiers inside the vehicle, while terrorists yell at them.

A still from footage showing the capture and abduction of Liri Albag, Karina Ariev, Agam Berger, Daniela Gilboa and Naama Levy at the Nahal Oz base on October 7, 2023 (The Hostages Families Forum)

In a statement after the release of the video, President Isaac Herzog said he would continue to offer the families of hostages “strength and love.”

“The world must look at this cruel atrocity. Those who care about women’s rights must speak out. All those who believe in freedom must speak out, and do everything possible to bring all of the hostages home now,” he said.

A still from footage showing the capture and abduction of Liri Albag, Karina Ariev, Agam Berger, Daniella Gilboa, and Naama Levy, at the Nahal Oz base on October 7, 2023. (The Hostages Families Forum)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was “horrified” by the footage and vowed to do all he could to return the hostages home.

“The cruelty of the Hamas terrorists only strengthens my determination to fight with all my might until Hamas is eliminated in order to ensure that what we saw this evening doesn’t happen ever again,” he wrote on X.

Many family members of the hostages have blamed Netanyahu and the government for foot-dragging that has prevented a deal to release their loved ones from being reached.

A still from footage showing the capture and abduction of Liri Albag, Karina Ariev, Agam Berger, Daniela Gilboa and Naama Levy at the Nahal Oz base on October 7, 2023 (The Hostages Families Forum)

Several media commentators expressed bewilderment at how the terrorists did not appear to be in a rush to leave the base, spending time tormenting the soldiers, and slowly taking them to the vehicles undisturbed, without any sign of security forces coming to the rescue.

Nahal Oz was invaded by dozens of terrorists on October 7, and they spent some three hours at the base, Channel 12 said, without the IDF coming to the rescue.

The video was released ahead of a war cabinet meeting on Wednesday night and was declaredly aimed at pressuring ministers to step up efforts to reach a deal with Hamas to release the hostages. Negotiations on a truce deal have been stalled since April. The only previous deal, in November, saw 105 hostages released during a weeklong truce.

“The disturbing video has been the reality of Agam, Daniella, Liri, Naama, Karina, and 123 other hostages for 229 days,” the Hostages and Missing Families Forum said in a statement. “The video is a damning testament to the nation’s failure to bring home the hostages, who have been forsaken for 229 days.”

“The Israeli government must not waste even one more moment – it must return to the negotiating table today!” it added.

The parents’ reasoning

Relatives of the five said that the three minutes and ten seconds of broadcast footage was heavily censored, with their oversight, for publication.

Eli Albag, Liri’s father, told Channel 12 News that the original footage is over 13 minutes long. The IDF Spokesman’s Office is understood to have made the full footage available to the families and allowed them to decide what to show to the public.

“This is the most sensitive version… and still terribly harsh,” said Albag. “We are exposing ourselves and our daughters. We went back and forth over and over about whether to release it. Three of the mothers have not seen the footage, are not prepared to see the footage, cannot bear to see the girls [in the footage].”

“It’s been 229 days since then,” he said, “and we are living it minute by minute… I have no words to describe the horrors: At that base, 54 male and female soldiers were murdered. Those girls sat for two hours with 11 bodies of female soldiers and one male soldier in their line of sight.”

He asked: “What else can we say? Where else can we shout? What else can we do to wake the nation up?”

Eli Albag, father of hostage Liri Albag, watches newly broadcast October 7, 2023 Hamas footage of the abduction of his daughter and four other female soldiers from Nahal Oz IDF base, May 22, 2024 (Channel 12 screenshot

Asked why the decision was taken to have the footage broadcast, and told that the war cabinet is meeting Wednesday night to discuss the hostages, Albag said: “If this film doesn’t change the thinking, this is the last bullet we have, to tell them. What else do you want? What else can we do? If that doesn’t influence them…”

It took five years to reach a deal for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011, he noted, “and they paid so much more” to get him out of Hamas captivity. “Wake up! There are 128 hostages. One hundred and twenty-eight. The number is beyond comprehension. Somebody has to wake up. And if this doesn’t wake them up, I don’t know what else to say.”

When it was put to Albag that Hamas has been preventing a hostage-ceasefire deal, he said that “the only way” to free the hostages was to “end the war.” He said he did not believe the IDF would be able to extricate them, and lamented that three IDF soldiers were killed in Gaza earlier Wednesday “in an area [the IDF] had already cleared [of Hamas gunmen].”

Ayelet Shahar Levy, mother of Naama Levy, said that in the film, “We see our heroic daughters in the worst hour it is possible to imagine… That was their reality on October 7 and that’s the ongoing attack they are facing for 229 days.”

She added in a Channel 12 interview: “I just hope they are managing to somehow stay brave and courageous in the passing days. We partly know what they are going through in Hamas hands. I don’t have the words to explain what I feel…

“Who needs to see this film?” she asked rhetorically. “Apart from the parents, we thought the decision-makers — the ministers, the cabinet — that was the important thing. And not all agreed to watch it,” she said, referencing reports that security cabinet ministers Bezalel Smotrich, Yariv Levin, Eli Cohen and Avi Dichter have not watched the footage. (Levin later Wednesday indicated he had seen the footage.)

Yoni Levy, Naama’s father, told the TV channel that he can see that his daughter is “scared to death,” but also that “her survival instinct” is working, when she tells one of the terrorists that “she has friends in Palestine.”

“I have watched the footage several times and it doesn’t get any easier,” he said. “But for them, this film continues… For them, now, 229 days, 330,000 minutes, they’ve been living this. That’s why we’re screaming out.”

He added: “The hostages have become just one more in the chain of unsolved problems that the State of Israel is facing. Our goal is to say, people, this cannot be. Look what they go through in three minutes. Everything can wait. There is nothing more urgent than to return them. To return all 128,” he said.

“The State of Israel is strong enough… It can settle accounts with all of those despicable people…. [For the hostages,] we cannot drag our feet any longer.”

Clockwise, from top left: Daniella Gilboa, Karina Ariev, Naama Levy, Agam Berger and Liri Albag, who were taken hostage by Hamas on October 7, 2023. (Courtesy)

Albag’s sister Shay told the Kan public broadcaster that the footage showed her sister’s strength. She noted that in the longer footage, the soldiers were sitting with the terrorists at the base for two hours, while “nobody came to save them.”

“It was so important for us to publish this footage so that the entire world sees, these are animals, and it will take time to digest it,” she said.

War cabinet minister Benny Gantz said his “stomach turned” when he first saw the video, and that he would not stop thinking about the captives until they are all returned.

“But the responsibility of leaders is not just to look the reality in the eye, it is to create a different reality even when it comes to difficult decisions. And that is our responsibility,” he wrote on X.

Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer wrote on X that the footage showed “the greatest human evil in the modern era.”

He called for international women’s rights groups to make a statement and said that the most important goal of the ongoing war was to return them home.

It is believed that 124 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November, and four hostages were released prior to that. Three hostages have been rescued by troops alive, and the bodies of 16 have also been recovered from the Strip, including three mistakenly killed by the military.

The IDF has confirmed the deaths of 37 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza. One more person is listed as missing since October 7, and their fate is still unknown.

Hamas is also holding the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014, as well as two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are both thought to be alive after entering the Strip of their own accord in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

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