Mother says seeing him 'very joyous, but also heartbreaking'

Palestinian Islamic Jihad publishes propaganda video of hostage Sasha Trufanov

In nearly 30-second-long clip, Trufanov identifies himself and says that in the coming days, he will speak about what happened to him and other hostages in Gaza

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Screenshot from a Palestinian Islamic Jihad propaganda video showing hostage Sasha Trufanov released on May 28, 2024. (Screenshot)
Screenshot from a Palestinian Islamic Jihad propaganda video showing hostage Sasha Trufanov released on May 28, 2024. (Screenshot)

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group on Tuesday released a short propaganda video showing hostage Alexander (Sasha) Trufanov in the Gaza Strip.

The nearly 30-second-long video was not dated, and no further information indicated when it could have been filmed.

In the clip, Trufanov identifies himself and says that in the coming days, he will speak about what happened to him and other hostages in Gaza.

The family requested that a shortened version of the clip be published.

On October 7, thousands of Hamas-led terrorists burst across the border into Israel, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 252 hostages. About half of them remain captive in Gaza.

Trufanov’s relatives said they were happy to see a sign of life and desperate for him to return home.

“To see him today on television is very joyous, but also heartbreaking because he is still in captivity,” said his mother, Yelena. “I call on all decision-makers, please do everything to bring him and all the hostages home now.”

Sasha’s girlfriend, Sapir Cohen, said: “We are waiting for you to come home already, and we’re doing everything we can for it to happen soon.”

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum, an NGO that represents most families of hostages, issued a statement saying “the sign of life from Alex Trufanov is further and clear proof that the Israeli government should give a significant mandate to the negotiating team, which could lead to a deal for the return of all the abducted, the living for rehabilitation and the murdered for burial.”

Last week, the war cabinet approved the resumption of indirect talks with Hamas for the release of hostages, with a source saying the negotiating team was given new guidelines to try and clinch a long-elusive breakthrough.

Sasha Trufanov, 27, was taken hostage along with his family and girlfriend Sapir Cohen on October 7, 2023. (Courtesy)

Islamic Jihad and Hamas have both previously issued similar videos of hostages the terror groups are holding, in what Israel says is deplorable psychological warfare. Most Israeli media do not carry the video clips themselves unless asked to or given permission by the hostage’s family members.

Trufanov was kidnapped on October 7 from Kibbutz Nir Oz along with his mother, girlfriend, and grandmother Irena Tati — all of whom were released in a hostage deal in late November. His father, Vitaly Trufanov, was murdered in the Hamas onslaught.

The four Trufanov family members, who immigrated from Russia 25 years ago, have no other relatives in Israel.

Yelena Trufanov was one of three women who appeared in a Hamas propaganda clip that was released on October 30.

Freed hostages Yelena Trufanov, right, speaks next to her mother Irena Tati at a rally calling for the release of Israelis held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, in Hostage Square in Tel Aviv, December 2, 2023. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Yelena, 50, and her mother Irena Tati, 73, were released by Hamas on November 29 at the request of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The move came during a week-long negotiated lull in the fighting that included the release of 105 hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinian security prisoners Israel had jailed as well as an increase in humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Recent indirect talks between Israel and Hamas in Cairo over a deal to temporarily halt the fighting in Gaza and free remaining hostages broke up with no discernible progress.

People in Tel Aviv walk by photographs of Israelis still held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, May 28, 2024. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Two weeks ago, Hamas aired a video of British-Israeli Nadav Popplewell, 51, who is also being held hostage in Gaza. There was no indication as to when the video was filmed. It was the third clip of hostages that Hamas released in recent weeks.

Last week’s war cabinet approval to restart hostage negotiations came after the families of hostages released harrowing footage showing the abduction of five female soldiers from the Nahal Oz base by Hamas terrorists on October 7, with some of the parents saying their goal in releasing the video was to wake up the country, and especially the leadership, to work more urgently to secure their release.

It is believed that 121 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 19 hostages have also been recovered, including three mistakenly killed by the military.

The IDF has confirmed the deaths of 37 of those still held by Hamas, citing intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.

One more person has been listed as missing since October 7, and their fate is still unknown.

Hamas has also been holding 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, as well as the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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