Israel fears for their fate; does not have definitive info

IDF finds video of Bibas family in Gaza, ‘very concerned’ for mother, youngest hostages

Footage from day of kidnapping showing mom, toddler and baby wrapped in sheet and being forced into car is first proof of life since three were dragged into Gaza on October 7

Shiri, Ariel, and Kfir Bibas in Khan Younis on October 7, after they were kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Oz, in a video released by the IDF on February 19, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF on Monday released what it said was recently discovered footage showing mother Shiri Bibas and her two young children surrounded by gunmen in the Gaza Strip hours after they were abducted by Hamas-led terrorists on October 7, and expressed serious fears over the captive family.

The clip from surveillance cameras in Khan Younis showing Bibas holding Ariel and Kfir, who were 4 years and 9 months old, respectively, at the time of the kidnapping, is the first proof of life of the three members of the family since they were dragged into Gaza, IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said in a press conference. The boys’ father, Yarden, was kidnapped separately and is also still held in Gaza.

Hagari said the IDF was “very concerned about the fate of Shiri and the children,” but declined to elaborate on the additional “scraps” of information and intelligence that has led the army to fear for their lives.

He said the IDF does not currently have enough information to confirm whether they are dead or alive, but is “making every effort to obtain more information about their fate.” If and when there is definitive information “one way or another,” he said, “we will first tell the family and then the public.”

Hamas in November claimed that Shiri, Ariel, and Kfir were killed in an IDF strike, but the army insisted that that is unverified.

The family has become one of the most recognizable groups of hostages and held up by many as proof of the extent of Hamas’s cruelty. A video that emerged of Shiri carrying her children as she was taken away by the terrorists quickly gained attention due to her visible distress, the children’s bright red hair (which led the kids to be popularly nicknamed “the redheads”), and Kfir’s young age — being the youngest Israeli abducted by Hamas.

Shiri Bibas, with her sons Ariel and Kfir, in Khan Younis on October 7, soon after they were kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Oz, in a still from a video released by the IDF on February 19, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The three had been slated for release along with other mothers and children during a November truce, but never materialized, amplifying fears over their fates.

Both the Bibas family and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the footage “heartbreaking.”

Hagari said Monday that the footage “shows the terrorists wrapping Shiri and her babies in a sheet, trying to hide them. You can see little Ariel’s red hair poking through the white cloth. They were forced into a car and taken somewhere else.”

The IDF spokesman said the clips are from a Khan Younis military post belonging to the Mujahideen Brigades terror group, a relatively small armed faction in the Gaza Strip that is somewhat allied with the coastal enclave’s Hamas rulers. He said the clips were obtained by the IDF in Khan Younis in recent weeks and were shown to relatives of the abducted family.

Kfir is the youngest hostage in Gaza — “a baby stolen from his crib during the Hamas massacre,” Hagari said. He was one of the 253 hostages taken, and is one of the 134 who remain captive in Gaza.

“Seeing this young mother, clutching her babies, surrounded by a group of armed terrorists, is horrifying and heart-wrenching, but it is also a call for action, that we must bring the hostages home. Fast,” the army spokesman continued.

“Those who have the audacity to question our need to operate in Gaza, but don’t have the basic decency and humanity to demand that Hamas release our hostages first of all, they all should take a good look at this terrified mother, Shiri, clutching her babies,” Hagari added in English. Demanding that Hamas release them, he vowed, “We will leave no stone unturned until our hostages are home.”

In a statement issued shortly after Hagari’s press conference, the Bibas family called for the release of the family to be the first condition in any hostage deal.

“We’re issuing a desperate call to all the decision-makers in Israel and the world who are involved in the negotiations: Bring them home now. Make it clear to Hamas that kidnapping children is out of bounds.”

They said the footage showed an “unbearable and inhumane” kidnapping.

Shiri Bibas and her sons Ariel, 4, and baby Kfir, are abducted from Kibbutz Nir Oz by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023. (Screenshot)

“Ariel and Kfir are victims of monstrous evil,” the family said. “Our entire family has become hostages along with all the abductees in Gaza.”

The footage “reminds us who we are dealing with — cruel baby kidnappers,” Netanyahu said in a video statement.

“We will settle accounts with them. And to the world I say: We will bring these kidnappers of babies and mothers to justice. They won’t get away with it.”

In late November, IDF Arabic-language spokesman Avichai Adraee confirmed, via X, that the mother and her two children were transferred by Hamas to another terror group inside the Gaza Strip and that they were believed to be held in the southern city of Khan Younis.

Nili Margalit, who spent nearly 50 days in Hamas captivity, revealed last month that she was with Yarden Bibas when Hamas terrorists told him his wife and two young children had been killed and ordered him to film a video in which he blamed Netanyahu for refusing to return their bodies to Israel.

Hagari said Monday that as terrorists flooded Kibbutz Nir Oz, Yarden left the family’s home first in order to protect them. He was taken hostage and separated from Shiri and their two children, who were also subsequently kidnapped.

The IDF has said that the claims made by Hamas regarding the Bibas family have not been verified, described them as “psychological terror,” and noted that terror groups in Gaza had previously announced that an Israeli hostage had been killed in an IDF strike only to release her alive several weeks later.

Terrorists abduct Yarden Bibas to Gaza after kidnapping him from his home in Nir Oz, a kibbutz in Israel near the Gaza border, on October 7, 2023. His wife Shiri and son Ariel, 4, and baby Kfir, were also abducted. (AP Photo)

Margalit told Channel 12’s Uvda investigative program that Yarden, 34, was already in a poor psychological state due to worry over his family’s wellbeing and broke down upon being given the news by his captors.

She said the Hamas captors had told her she would be released later that day, only to later tell her and fellow hostage Yoram Metzger that they would have to deliver the news about the Bibas family to Yarden.

“I told Yoram, if they want to tell him such a terrible thing, let them tell him themselves. Let him look him in the eyes and tell him himself. He knows Hebrew,” Margalit recalled, referring to the Hamas captor.

The Bibas family — father Yarden, four-year-old Ariel, mother Shiri and baby Kfir — who were abducted by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023 from Kibbutz Nir Oz. (Courtesy)

The Hamas member proceeded to deliver the “news” to Yarden in Arabic as Metzger translated and another Hamas member filmed the reaction, telling the broken father what to say.

A minute later, Margalit was swept away by her captors, and she was released later that evening.

Ofri Bibas Levy, sister of Yarden Bibas, held hostage in Gaza with his wife, Shiri and two kids, Kfir and Ariel, talks to the media, in Geneva, Switzerland, on Nov. 14, 2023. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP, File)

Ofri Bibas Levy, Yarden’s sister, said on Monday evening that the family had asked for the IDF to release the video footage “to remind the world” of the plight of their loved ones, and of the urgent imperative to bring the hostages home.

She said she had watched Netanyahu’s pledge to “settle accounts” with those who kidnapped and are holding the hostages, but that “the first priority is getting them back.”

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