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Hamas Hostages: Israeli Abductions and What We Know

Fears grow over safety of dozens of hostages held in Gaza after Hamas attacks; hundreds dead, including civilians and soldiers.

Fears are intensifying regarding the safety of numerous hostages currently being held in Gaza following attacks by Hamas over the weekend. Israeli troops are engaged in a battle to eliminate Hamas gunmen more than two days after they carried out a deadly rampage resulting in hundreds of casualties. The hostages, which include members of the Israeli Defence Forces and civilians, some of whom were taken from a nearby music festival on Saturday, are currently being held in the heavily militarised Gaza area. Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson, expressed concern, stating that it is an "unprecedented [moment] in our history that we have so many Israeli nationals in the hands of a terrorist organisation".

The al Qassam brigades, a Hamas military wing, infiltrated Israel through land, sea, and air on Saturday, flooding into nearby civilian towns and engaging in violent clashes with the IDF. In a Telegram post, a Brigades spokesperson claimed to have captured "dozens of (Israeli) officers and soldiers" on the first day of fighting. The spokesperson, Abu Obaida, announced that the hostages had been secured in safe places and resistance tunnels. Brig. Gen. Daniel Hagari, an IDF spokesperson, later confirmed that Hamas fighters had taken hostages from the border community of Be'eri and the town of Okafim, 20 miles east of Gaza. He described these areas as the "main focal points" of the unfolding crisis. Additionally, the Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian militant group, stated that they were holding over 30 captives.

It is important to note that the hostages are not exclusively soldiers. Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, the military's international spokesperson, reported that "civilians, children, and grandmothers" were among those being held captive. Furthermore, an unknown number of civilians attending a music festival near Kibbutz Re'im, close to the Gaza border, are believed to have been taken hostage by Hamas. Disturbing videos have emerged, showing individuals being forcibly taken away by Hamas fighters. The whereabouts of the hostages are challenging to determine, as Hamas has constructed miles of underground tunnels beneath the enclave, many of which remain unmapped. Additionally, hostages may be kept above ground with other fighters, making it difficult to distinguish them from Palestinian civilians and Hamas militants.

The uncertainty surrounding Hamas' intentions for the hostages adds to the complexity of the situation. It is likely that the captives have been taken to deter an Israeli invasion of the enclave. However, there is no definitive list of those taken hostage by Hamas, as Israeli forces are cautious about revealing exact numbers. Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus stated, "I can only say that we are talking about many many Israelis ... Women, children, infants, elderly, and even disabled people." Families have expressed concerns for missing loved ones who may be held captive or have been killed during the attacks.

Among those missing is 26-year-old Briton Jake Marlowe, who was providing security at the music festival near the enclave. Another missing individual is photographer Dan Darlington, a British citizen visiting from Berlin, Germany. Kim Damti, a 22-year-old Irish-Israeli citizen, is another young woman whose whereabouts are unknown. The woman seen being taken away from the music festival on a motorbike has been identified as Noa Argamani. Her boyfriend, Avinatan Or, was also filmed being apprehended and forced to walk with his hands behind his back. Shani Louk, a German-Israeli national, has been identified as another hostage. A video showed her unconscious at the festival, displayed by armed militants shouting "Allahu Akbar". Mexico's foreign minister Alicia Barcena believes that two Mexican nationals, a man and a woman, have been taken hostage. Brazilian authorities also report that at least three Brazilian nationals are missing.

In response to the crisis, families of missing or hostage relatives held a joint news conference on Sunday evening. Many only discovered that their friends and relatives had been taken when they saw videos posted by Hamas on social media and through WhatsApp groups. Heartbreaking stories emerged, such as that of Yoni Asher, who learned about his family's kidnapping when he saw a video of a gunman seizing his wife and two young daughters. Uri David, another father, had been on the phone with his daughters, Tair and Odaya, before the call abruptly ended. He heard shooting and shouting in Arabic and instructed his daughters to lie on the ground and hold hands. Desperate for their safe return, he pleaded, "I am asking for the whole world to see what I am going through. We have to bring the children home - and as fast as possible."

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