Urging deal, hostages’ families tell war cabinet some are facing death

In letter, forum for relatives of abductees says it has evidence some captives’ lives are in ‘immediate danger,’ implores swift exchange deal to save all those held

Israelis put up posters of the those held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, at 'Hostage Square' in Tel Aviv, December 6, 2023. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Israelis put up posters of the those held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, at 'Hostage Square' in Tel Aviv, December 6, 2023. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

The lives of some of the hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip are in immediate danger, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum has said in a letter to the war cabinet. Families urged leaders to swiftly reach a deal to secure the release of all those abducted in the devastating October 7 Hamas assault on Israel.

“We received solid intelligence that there are abductees whose condition has deteriorated and there is now an immediate danger to their lives,” read the letter, sent on Tuesday evening. “We demand that you act urgently, with initiative and creativity, to reach a deal for the immediate release of all the hostages.”

It indicated that some of that information came from hostages released recently by Hamas during a week-long temporary truce.

The war cabinet, specially formed to oversee the war that erupted after the Hamas attack, is made up of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and Minister Benny Gantz, a former IDF chief. Serving as observers are former IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot, Shas chief Aryeh Deri, and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer.

On October 7, Hamas led a massive assault on Israel as thousands of terrorists burst through the border with Gaza and rampaged murderously through southern areas. The attackers killed over 1,200 people, mostly civilians. They also abducted at least 240 people of all ages to Gaza.

The letter, which included expert testimony from Prof. Hagai Levine, head of the medical team at the forum, said that at least a third of those held in Gaza have preexisting conditions that require regular medical treatment.

Released hostages and families of hostages held in Gaza meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other members of the war cabinet on December 5, 2023. (Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum)

Without care, some of them may be in life-threatening danger, or suffer irreversible damage, the letter said. Some, the letter added, have apparently already lost their lives due to the conditions.

Additionally, many of the abductees were injured when they were kidnapped — suffering gunshot wounds, lost limbs, and shrapnel wounds — which, untreated, could lead to risks to life, complications, disabilities, and suffering, it stressed.

The hostages are also being “tortured, physically and/or mentally, and deprived of adequate food.”

“We expect you to see to it that the Health Ministry urgently publishes a scientific medical report detailing the general and specific health risks for the people in captivity so that these facts are placed before you, before the Red Cross, and before the whole world,” the letter continued.

During the seven-day truce — which lapsed on December 1, after Hamas failed to deliver a list of hostages it intended to release and began firing rockets at Israel — the terror group released 105 civilian hostages: 81 Israelis, 23 Thai nationals, and one Filipino. It is believed that 138 hostages remain in Gaza.

In return, Israel released 240 Palestinian security prisoners held for various terror charges, all women and minors. Additionally, some 200 trucks, including four tankers of fuel and four tankers of cooking gas, entered Gaza each day.

Members of the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad terror groups release Israeli hostages to the Red Cross, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, November 28, 2023. (Flash90)

A markedly tense meeting was held Tuesday between the war cabinet and a group of recently released hostages and family members of those still held in Gaza. Some of those present were reportedly so infuriated that they shouted at the ministers or stormed out.

In leaked excerpts from the meeting, including audio recordings, Netanyahu was heard telling family members that there was currently “no possibility” of returning all of the hostages and that Hamas was making ransom demands that go beyond the release of prisoners and that even the families would not agree to.

Gallant was heard promising to make “every effort” to bring back the hostages, but appeared to indicate that even an “all for all” exchange — all the hostages for all Palestinian security prisoners — would not be sufficient for Hamas’s Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar.

Released hostages have told of being kept in Hamas’s vast network of tunnels beneath Gaza in abysmal conditions, having scant food, and describing physical and mental abuse at the hands of their captors, including sexual assault.

Israel has indicated that it believes at least 15 of the hostages are dead.

In response to the Hamas attack, Israel launched a military campaign aimed at smashing the terror group, removing it from control over Gaza, and releasing the hostages.

Relatives of hostages have criticized the government, saying it has forsaken those being held in Gaza as it pursues the destruction of Hamas.

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