Live news on the war between Israel and Hamas: Aid trucks cross into Gaza | ET REALITY


Rut Hodaya Pérez is not fit to be held hostage in the Gaza Strip.

Rut, a 17-year-old Israeli girl who suffers from myotonic dystrophy, cannot walk and uses a wheelchair. But that didn’t stop Hamas gunmen from kidnapping her Oct. 7 at a trance music festival near the Gaza border during her wave of kidnappings and massacres.

Ruth is now among the large and varied group of captives Hamas is believed to have dragged back to its underground labyrinth of tunnels in Gaza.

“She is not made to live in a place like that,” said her sister Yamit.

It has been two weeks since the Hamas militant group attacked Israel, massacring more than 1,400 people and kidnapping more than 200. While fears grow for the safety of all the hostages, held in conditions that would test even the most strong, worries increase. especially intense for the most physically vulnerable like Ruth.

From left to right: Eric Pérez, Rut Hodaya Pérez and Yamit Pérez.Credit…Perez Family

On Friday morning, Israeli military officials said “most” of the hostages were alive, and on Friday night, all those with loved ones held in Gaza received an additional injection of hope when Israel and Hamas announced that two hostages , a mother and her daughter. who have dual American-Israeli citizenship, had been released.

U.S. officials said representatives from Qatar, a U.S. ally that maintains good relations with Hamas, had helped persuade the group, which controls Gaza, to release Judith Raanan, 59, and Natalie Raanan, 17. It was unclear. why the Raanan were freed. before others.

But for all who remain, It is almost inconceivable what any of them are experiencing, especially those most in need.

They are being held at gunpoint by the same group that massacred their friends and loved ones. They are trapped in the densely populated enclave of Gaza that Israeli warplanes bombard relentlessly. All around them, food, water and medicine are running out, and fear, anger and hatred are increasing. Everyone inside Gaza, with a population of two million, is facing a humanitarian crisis, and governments around the world have been urging Israelis to allow desperately needed aid in, which has finally started to happen. Saturday morning.

Natalie Raanan and her mother, Judith Raanan, speaking with President Biden on Friday, after being released by Hamas, in a photograph released by the US embassy in Jerusalem.Credit…US Embassy in Jerusalem, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Israeli officials said Hamas had taken at least 20 children, including toddlers; more than a dozen people between 60, 70 and 80 years old; and people suffering from Parkinson’s disease, heart problems, diabetes and cancer. Additionally, several hostages were seriously injured by gunshots and grenades during the terrorist attack.

Family members and international organizations are pleading with Hamas to show mercy and release the elderly, the young, the sick and the injured first.

The International Committee of the Red Cross is one of the groups trying to help. Two days after the attack, Red Cross officials said, they had approached Hamas leaders in Doha, Qatar.

“The starting point – and I have a hard time walking away from this – is that there are people who should never be there,” Fabrizio Carboni, the organization’s regional director for the Near and Middle East, said in an interview last week.

Over the past 10 days, he said, the Red Cross has met face-to-face and had numerous phone calls with Hamas officials, but, “given the level of violence in Gaza, I find it extremely difficult for us to do our job. “

Red Cross officials said they were asking Hamas leaders to offer “proof of life,” such as a message, phone call or video proving that each person believed to be held captive is alive. The Red Cross also calls on Hamas to allow the entry of medicine and to immediately release hostages with urgent health needs, like Ruth.

“Everyone should be released, but those with specific medical conditions should be released even more than others,” Carboni said. “There is no easy way to provide the medical help they need in Gaza today,” she added. “We asked for it. But today we are far from that, very far.”

As part of a demonstration in Tel Aviv, a long table with 203 empty chairs and cutlery was set up before Shabbat, one for each hostage believed to be held in Gaza.Credit…Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

For the families of the hostages, it has been a harrowing week of ups and downs.

Tuesday’s catastrophic explosion at a crowded Gaza hospital inflamed passions (and anti-Israel sentiments) around the world. Israel blamed the explosion on a rocket fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another militant group in Gaza, while Hamas officials blamed an Israeli airstrike. Neither side’s account could be independently verified, but the end result was immense suffering in Gaza and increased risks to the safety of the hostages.

Over the next few days, Israel continued to build up its forces along the Gaza border, preparing to invade. Many families of the captives are praying that the Israelis will delay the ground offensive until all the hostages are freed.

There are few good options. Tactical experts say a rescue attempt would be too dangerous. Hamas has miles of underground tunnels in Gaza, and experts believe hostages have been divided up and kept under heavy guard throughout this labyrinth.

Adding to this gloomy picture was the news that came late last week that Israeli soldiers had found bodies of Israelis along the border fence with Gaza. It is not clear when they were killed: during captivity or in the initial moments of the October 7 attack. Either way, the hostages’ families are now under tremendous stress, answering every phone call with trembling fingers not knowing if they are about to find out if the people they love most are alive or dead.

And for hostages who are sick or injured, time is not on their side.

Hersh Goldberg-Polin, 23, a California native who moved to Israel with his family 15 years ago, is a captive in Gaza whose arm was torn off by a grenade during the attack.

Hersh Goldberg-Polin, 23, a California native in an image taken before the attack. He was filmed being loaded onto a Hamas truck with blood dripping from a tourniquet he made around his left elbow.Credit…Courtesy of Rachel Goldberg, via Associated Press

He was caught on video being loaded onto a Hamas truck, with blood dripping from a stump above his left elbow.

Rotem Revivi, a close friend, said it was “obvious” that if Goldberg-Polin’s arm was not treated properly, “he might no longer be with us.”

Hagai Levine, an official at the Hostage and Missing Families Forum, an organization that emerged in Tel Aviv to help hostage families, believes the International Committee of the Red Cross needs to “do more,” such as publishing a list of all people. missing and hostages. Red Cross officials say they are trying to obtain this information and drawing on their experiences from other Middle East conflicts.

The organization helped repatriate thousands of prisoners during Israel’s decades-old wars with its neighbors. He maintains an office in Gaza, where, Carboni said, his people were housed in “terrible conditions” to facilitate the release of hostages, as they did on Friday night when Hamas handed over the Raanan and they entered a Red Cross that purred. truck, according Hamas released a short video.

Avichai Broduch, whose wife and three children were kidnapped by Hamas militants, at a rally calling for his release in Tel Aviv.Credit…Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

Hamas initially threatened to execute a civilian hostage every time an Israeli airstrike hit Gazans “in their homes without warning,” but has made no further such announcements. While Hamas has said little about the hostages, it is clear that the hostages are of great value to them.

Israeli officials said Palestinian Islamic Jihad also holds some captives. Musab Al-Breim, spokesman for that group, known for working closely with Hamas, said this week that “There is only one way for the prisoners to return, and that is for our prisoners to be released,” referring to the thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Hostage experts say this is one of the most complicated hostage standoffs in history. It is a huge group of captives, held in a raging war zone, with hostages coming from many different countries, ranging in age from 1 year to over 85 years old, including civilians kidnapped from their homes or from a party in the desert, as well as Israeli soldiers on active duty. captured from burning tanks.

Even the simplest communication, such as a phone call to those in captivity, is difficult. “The non-state armed groups that we are in contact with are very, very careful when it comes to establishing contact with us because they know that through technology they could be tracked,” Carboni said.

But aside from all that, Carboni said, “it is unthinkable” that so many children have been kidnapped.

He added that “this outrage is not at the expense of our outrage for the children of Gaza,” who, he said, have grown up facing “incredible brutality and violence.”

“We cannot add violence to violence,” he said. “We need to stop this.”

A protest in Tel Aviv calling for the return of the more than 200 hostages believed to have been taken by Hamas. Credit…Amit Elkayam for The New York Times

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