Palestinian terror group Hamas was supposed to release a kidnapped mother and her two children as part of its multi-day truce agreement with Israel this week, and violated the agreement when it failed to do so, the Israeli military said Friday.
Speaking at a briefing, Israel Defense Forces Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari did not appear to be saying Hamas had specifically committed to release Shiri Bibas, 32, and her young children Ariel Bibas, 4, and Kfir Bibas, 10 months old, but rather that they were clearly in the category of those the sides had agreed would be freed: children and their mothers.
The three were abducted from Kibbutz Nir Oz on October 7, along with Shiri’s husband and the father of the two boys, Yarden Bibas, 34, as Hamas-led terrorists rampaged through southern Israel, killing more than 1,200 people, a majority of them civilians.
Terrorists also took some 240 hostages, about 100 of whom were released since last Friday amid a now-defunct truce deal that saw a pause in the war, seven groups of Israeli and foreign hostages freed — mainly women and children — over seven days, the release of over 200 Palestinian prisoners over that same period, and the facilitation of more humanitarian aid to the Strip.
The truce, brokered by Qatar and Egypt, came to an end early Friday morning with the resumption of hostilities, as Hamas failed to provide a list of hostages it intended to release by 7 a.m. as stipulated in the agreement that had been in place since last week, and also launched rockets toward Israeli territory early in the morning. The terror group also claimed responsibility for a deadly terror attack in Jerusalem Thursday.
“The Bibas family — it’s a case we have been following with intelligence and operationally since the beginning of the fighting,” Hagari said at the briefing.
“In the framework, the Bibas family, the mother and the kids, were supposed to be returned to Israel. Hamas decided not to do this.”
Hamas issued an unverified claim this week that the mother and children were killed in an Israeli bombardment and offered to return three corpses to Israel this week in the sixth round of hostage releases, but it was unclear whose remains it was referring to.
Gaza terror groups have made such claims regarding hostages in the past, seen as part of a psychological warfare campaign.
On Wednesday, the IDF said it had notified the family that it was investigating the “cruel and inhumane” claim that the three were dead and slammed Hamas’s “psychological terrorism.”
A day later, Hamas posted a propaganda video appearing to show Yarden Bibas, alive, saying that the bodies Hamas offered to Israel were his family’s and asking that they be returned for burial.
The family has said that Yarden was taken to Gaza separately from his wife and sons. A cousin, Jimmy Miller, cited video showing Yarden being abducted by motorbike and beaten en route.
In his briefing Friday, Hagari said: “Yesterday a difficult video was published showing Yarden Bibas. On one hand, it’s a sign of life, on the other it’s cruel manipulative terror carried out by Hamas.”
“We demanded today, like every day during the framework, to return the women and children as agreed upon in the deal, which Egypt and Qatar had a commitment to. Hamas decided to violate the framework.”
The family has become one of the most recognizable groups of hostages and is held up by many as proof of the extent of Hamas’s cruelty.
The Bibas family, including 10-months-old Kfir, 4-year-old Ariel and their mother Shiri were abducted by Hamas on October 7.
Hamas must be held accountable.
Hamas must release all hostages immediately. pic.twitter.com/aizQ6M0Yp2
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) November 29, 2023
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 has led the kids to be popularly nicknamed “the redheads”) and Kfir’s young age — being the youngest Israeli abducted by Hamas.
While some 80 women and children have been released over the past seven days as part of the temporary ceasefire deal, hopes that the Bibas family would be among them have been dashed day after day.
On Tuesday, IDF Arabic-language spokesman Avichai Adraee confirmed via X, formerly Twitter, 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.
That group has been reported to be the small Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The Bibas children are the only two kids remaining hostage in Gaza, among the 40 or so taken by terrorists on October 7.
Israel believes roughly 17 Israeli women and children now remain in Gaza and that its truce with Hamas stipulated that the terror group would release all of them before freeing other categories of hostages.
Also Friday, the Biden administration blamed the end of the temporary ceasefire in Gaza on Hamas and appeared to back Israel’s claim that Hamas still has additional women and children hostages who it could release.
“We think it’s more than plausible that they have more women and children that do and should qualify for an exchange,” White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said during a briefing.
“It’s because of Hamas that this pause ended… The onus is on Hamas to be able to produce a list of hostages,” he said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed later Friday that the pause “came to an end because of Hamas,” which “began firing rockets before the pause ended, and … reneged on the commitments it made in terms of releasing certain hostages.”
Hamas expanded the range of fire throughout the day Friday, launching salvos at towns near the border before targeting the southern coastal city of Ashdod. The military said roughly 50 rockets had been fired at southern Israeli towns from Gaza.