Hostages' families demand visual evidence of delivery

Vital medications to be transferred to Gaza hostages in coming days, PM’s office says

Red Cross to reportedly facilitate transfer; Hamas said wary delivery may help Israel establish location of hostages; deal will also see medications for Palestinians enter Strip

Israelis attend the weekly rally calling for the return of hostages held by Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip, at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, January 6, 2024. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Israelis attend the weekly rally calling for the return of hostages held by Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip, at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, January 6, 2024. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

An agreement has been reached that will see vital medications delivered to hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the Prime Minister’s Office announced in a statement Friday evening.

The statement added that the medications will be delivered to the hostages in the next few days.

Channel 12 reported that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will facilitate the transfer.

A Hamas official said Saturday that medicine from Qatar would reach Gaza and “some medicine will be used to treat Israeli prisoners.”

It is believed that 132 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.

They have had no visits from the ICRC since being abducted during Hamas’s murderous onslaught across southern Israel, when terrorists killed 1,200 and took 240 others captive — mostly civilians. Critics have blasted the Red Cross for failing to visit them in captivity or even ensure that much-needed medicines reach those being held.

An Israeli official told The Times of Israel that the list of medications for the hostages will include ones deemed as “life-saving” by their doctors and are believed to include medicine for those with chronic illnesses, heart disease, high blood pressure and asthma.

Pictures of hostages kidnapped during the Oct. 7 Hamas cross-border onslaught in Israel are placed by a table set during a protest outside the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, Jan. 12, 2024. (AP Photo/Patrick Post)

According to the official, the negotiations were complex as Hamas is wary that the transfer of medications to the hostages will lead to Israel discovering where exactly they are being held.

The official said that Israel has been pushing from the get-go for medications to be transferred to Hamas, which has until this week refused to cooperate.

The terror group buckled amid heightened pressure from Qatar, the official said.

The official said that as part of the agreement, Israel had agreed to expand the entry of medications for Palestinians as part of the humanitarian aid entering Gaza.

The Qatar-led deal with the Hamas terror group was led by Mossad spy agency chief David Barnea and approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to the PMO statement.

The announcement came a day after The New York Times revealed the existence of advanced negotiations brokered by Qatar between Israel and Hamas aimed at transferring medications to the many hostages in need of them.

Channel 12 said that the agreement to transfer medications to the Gaza hostages should not be interpreted as a move toward a possible new hostage release deal.

Shortly after the agreement was announced, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum issued a statement demanding to see “visual proof” that their loved ones indeed receive their medications.

“After 98 days in Hamas tunnels, all hostages face immediate mortal danger and need life-saving medicines. In addition to medicines, the hostages require also extensive medical treatment,” the Hostages and Missing Families Forum said in a statement. “The war cabinet must demand visual proof that medicines have reached the hostages.”

Families and supporters of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza hold their photos and shout slogans during a rally calling for their release, in Tel Aviv, Israel, December 30, 2023. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

According to a report published by the Hostages Forum this week, one third of the hostages held in Gaza suffer from chronic diseases that require regular medical attention, including “diabetes, osteoporosis, anemia, asthma, inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s, inflammatory skin disease, Addison’s disease, cancer, recurrent urinary tract infections, hypothyroidism, heart disease, epilepsy and hypertension.”

The report listed specific cases, including hostages who were taken captive without their glasses, hearing devices and mobility aids, some of which were “intentionally broken to humiliate and thus harm them.”

Ten percent of the remaining hostages are above the age of 65, the report added, and 75 percent of them suffer from chronic non-communicable diseases.

Shelly Shem-Tov, whose 21-year-old son Omer is among the Israelis being held in Gaza, reacted to the announcement that medicine will be transferred to the hostages in the coming days.

“I don’t know what his health status is after 100 days without his inhaler. I just want him home,” she told Channel 12.

Omer was attending the Re’im music festival on October 7 when Hamas’s terror onslaught began.

He suffers from asthma, as well as celiac disease, which doesn’t require medication, but means eating food with gluten — such as bread, which many released hostages have said was the main sustenance provided in Hamas captivity — is dangerous for him.

“Air is very important for him, and right now he has no air,” Shelly Shem-Tov said, an apparent reference to the fact that many of the hostages are believed to be held in Hamas tunnels deep under Gaza.

Omer Shem-Tov, taken captive in Gaza by Hamas terrorists on October 7, as they assaulted the Supernova desert rave. (Courtesy)

One of the hostages released in the November truce, Nili Margalit, a nurse by profession, said in an interview after her release that she had treated some of her fellow captives in Gaza.

Margalit said she would tell the captors what medicines she needed to treat the sick hostages and that they would give some to her, albeit in insufficient amounts.

In addition to the 105 hostages released in the temporary truce in November, four hostages were released prior to that, and one was rescued by troops. The bodies of eight hostages have also been recovered and three hostages were mistakenly killed by the military.

The Israel Defense Forces has confirmed the deaths of 25 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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