Who has the ‘missing’ Israeli hostages? Palestinian Islamic Jihad – who seek the destruction of Israel – have ‘dozens’ of captives including ten-month-old baby…and it’s feared others may be held by gangsters
- Up to 40 hostages taken on October 7 are no longer under Hamas captivity
The release of more hostages by Hamas to Israel last night saw officials agree to extend their ceasefire by another two days as both parties continue to negotiate terms to free yet more captees.
But hopes that Hamas could eventually return all hostages to Israel without issue were dashed last night when it emerged that as many as 40 people taken during the ruthless October 7 attacks – including ten-month-old Kfir Bibas – are no longer under the captivity of the Palestinian group.
IDF spokesman Avichay Adraee yesterday declared Kfir, his four-year-old brother Ariel and mother Shiri had been taken to Khan Younis in southern Gaza and handed to elements of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) – a jihadist group that seeks to destroy Israel and has historically rejected any diplomatic engagement with Tel-Aviv.
Hamas officials also acknowledged that several of the hostages were now in PIJ custody, and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, who led the effort to broker the ceasefire, said they ‘may never be able to reach them’.
And in yet another layer of complexity, some Israelis are feared to have been scooped up by civilian gangs who capitalised on the chaos of October 7 to seize hostages of their own.
The Qatari Prime Minister said yesterday that Hamas must locate the remaining hostages whom he said were being held by ‘civilians and gangs’.
‘If they get additional women and children, there will be an extension,’ Sheikh Mohammed said.
‘We don’t yet have any clear information how many they can find… one of the purposes [of the pause] is they will have time to search for the rest of the missing people.’
Baby Kfir (pictured) had just learned to walk when he, along with his brother Ariel, four, and his mother Shiri, 32, were taken from his family’s home in Kibbutz Nir Oz
Shiri Silberman Bibas, and sons Ariel, four, and Kfir, who are missing along with their husband/father Jordan (Yarden) Bibas after being taken from Kibbutz Nir Oz during the Israel-Hamas conflict
Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group gunmen are seen in the West Bank
A woman walks along an alley near graffiti showing the logo of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, who led the effort to broker the ceasefire, said there is ‘no clear information how many (hostages) Hams can find… one of the purposes [of the pause] is they will have time to search for the rest of the missing people’
Israeli tanks are seen operating in the Gaza Strip
Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), which seeks the destruction of Israel, has fought repeated battles with the Israeli military in recent years and has always rejected any political compromise.
Hamas and PIJ are both militarised groups, but they differ in origins and focus.
Hamas is a political and social movement with an armed wing, and governs the Gaza Strip. PIJ, on the other hand, is an independent jihadist group with closer ties to Iran.
Unlike Hamas, PIJ is not involved in governance and concentrates on armed resistance.
The two organisations are in competition in Gaza – but both are in opposition to Israel.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s chief, Ziad al-Nakhala, says his organisation remains opposed not only to normalising relations with Israel, but also to the entire peace process that started with the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt in 1978.
‘We affirm that our resistance continues, and the Islamic Jihad Movement, born from the spirit of Islam, still perseveres in its path. It has not compromised and will not surrender to delusions,’ he said.
Baby Kfir had just learned to walk when he, along with his brother Ariel, four, and his mother Shiri, 32, was taken from his family’s home in Kibbutz Nir Oz during Hamas’ incursion on October 7.
During the deadly attack on Israel, Shiri, her husband Yarden, 34, and the two young boys desperately hid in a safe room armed only with a pistol, only to be taken out as Hamas gunmen smashed down their door.
The image of the two young boys being carried by their weeping mother, Shiri, as they were marched from their homes was one of the most striking to be published in the early days of the Israel-Hamas war.
Yarden’s fate is unknown, and it is believed that he is either dead or one of the roughly 200 hostages remaining in Hamas custody.
But Shiri and the children are now thought to be in the custody of PIJ.
Their family said in a statement last night: ‘We are experiencing moments of great uncertainty. The realisation that we will not get the hug we wished for leaves us speechless.’
It remains to be seen how closely Hamas and PIJ will coordinate on the treatment and potential release of the hostages, though Hamas official Osama Hamdan yesterday told Qatar’s Al-Arabi news channel the two groups were ‘preparing hostage lists’.
But IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari later declared that Hamas will still bear responsibility for any and all Israeli hostages.
‘Responsibility for the kidnapped people in general, including members of the Bibas family, who are detained by the factions in the Gaza Strip, lies with Hamas alone,’ he said.
Tal Goldstein-Almog, 9, (pictured) was seen being cradled by his loved ones after he and the other hostages arrived back in Israel
Agam Goldstein-Almog, 17, (pictured, centre) is embraced by loved ones in Israel last night after spending weeks as a hostage
One as-yet-unidentified hostage was seen leaving Hamas custody in a wheelchair, while several others were seen in bright pink clothes yesterday
Israel said Hamas had returned 11 more hostages from the Gaza Strip on Monday, bringing to 69 the total of Israeli and foreign hostages the Palestinian group has freed since Friday under the truce.
The White House and Qatari negotiators confirmed on Monday the original four day pause in fighting had been extended for two more days, while the Israeli prime minister’s office said the government approved the addition of 50 female prisoners to its list of Palestinians for potential release if additional Israeli hostages are freed.
Hamas said it had sought to revise terms under which it would free hostages beyond the women and children it has already released.
‘We hope the Occupation (Israel) abides (by the agreement) in the next two days because we are seeking a new agreement, besides women and children, whereby other categories that we have that we can swap,’ Hamas official Khalil Al-Hayya told Al Jazeera late on Monday.
That, he said, would entail ‘going towards an additional time period to continue swapping people at this stage’.
Among hostages Hamas still holds are fathers and husbands of those it has freed in recent days.
Israel previously said it would extend the truce by one day for every 10 more hostages released, providing some respite from the war.
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remains resolute in his intentions to crush Hamas, declaring his forces would resume its offensive ‘with all of our might’ once the truce expires.
After the Qatari-brokered deal was agreed last week, Netanyahu said the goals to ‘eliminate Hamas and get the hostages back’ would continue unhindered irrespective of when the truce finally comes to a close.
‘At the end of the day we will return every one,’ he said of the hostages, adding that ‘we are continuing until the end, until victory. Nothing will stop us.’
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