Palestinian militant group warns of hostage executions if Israel strikes civilians without notice
Adva Adar received a horrifying text from her grandmother at around 9 a.m. local time Saturday, saying there was shooting and shouting on the road in her community, just kilometres away from Israel's border with Gaza.
It was the last Adar and other family members heard from 85-year-old Yaffa Adar.
Hours later, an Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) member checked Yaffa Adar's house in Kibbutz Kfar Aza and found it "completely broken," Adva Adar said.
The family's worst fears were confirmed when, after scouring social media, they found a video of Yaffa Adar wrapped in a blanket and being driven in a golf cart carrying Palestinian men. She appears calm, even though one of her captors is carrying a machine gun.
"She's [a] strong lady," Adva Adar told Reuters at her home in the town of Luzit, more than 50 kilometres away from Kibbutz Kfar Aza. "You can see there, she's sitting trying to show them she's not afraid and she's not hurt. And, you know, if they will take her, they will take her with her pride. And that's the kind of woman my grandmother was."
Armed fighters with the Palestinian militant group Hamas captured more than 100 soldiers and civilians — including women, children and senior citizens — during a surprise assault and incursion into Israeli territory on Saturday morning, and is holding them hostage inside the Gaza Strip.
It's unclear whether or not the Israeli government will agree to exchange any of its Palestinian prisoners and detainees — which also include women and children — for the release of hostages.
The capture of so many people from inside Israel is not only unprecedented, but it may complicate the Israeli military assault against Hamas inside the densely populated enclave.
"The cruel reality is Hamas took hostages as an insurance policy against Israeli retaliatory action, particularly a massive ground attack and to trade for Palestinian prisoners," said Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in an interview with Reuters.
"Will it constrain how Israel responds? If the [hostage] numbers are great, how could it not?"
Granddaughter of abducted Israeli woman pleads for her release
Featured VideoShortly after Hamas gunmen invaded Israel's villages, Adva Adar recognized her grandmother, 85-year-old Yafa Adar, in widely circulated video of an elderly woman being driven on a golf cart into Gaza by armed men. Adva Adar says her grandmother is a strong woman, but she fears for her safety and those of other Israelis abducted by the militants. 'I have a hope that they will understand that these people have done nothing wrong…. Please bring them back home for us.'
'Leverage' for Hamas
Hamas, which governs Gaza, and another Palestinian militant group called Islamic Jihad claim to be holding more than 130 hostages.
Citizens from multiple countries are among the missing following Saturday's attacks and are possibly being held hostage in Gaza as well. Global Affairs Canada says at least three Canadians are missing, but would not confirm if they are believed to be hostages.
The hostages may serve as a "kind of human leverage" for the militants, Robin Wright, a foreign policy analyst and fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., explained in an interview with CBC News Network.
That makes the situation "difficult militarily [and] makes it difficult diplomatically," she said.
If Israel tries to rescue hostages, which Hamas says are being held in different locations, it could jeopardize their lives. On the other hand, protracted negotiations with the militant group over a prisoner swap would be a huge public relations win for an arch foe of Israel.
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Featured VideoWARNING: This video contains graphic content. Hamas has taken more than 100 Israelis hostage, including many civilians, and is threatening to execute one each time Israel launches airstrikes on Gaza without first warning civilians. Andrew Chang breaks down what we know about the hostages — and how Israel must calculate moves to secure their return.
Possibility of prisoner exchange
A Hamas official, in an interview with Al Jazeera on Saturday, claimed the militant group had captured enough hostages to secure the release of every Palestinian held in Israeli prisons.
According to the Palestinian Ma'an News, Israel has approximately 5,200 Palestinians in its prisons and has more than 1,300 administrative detainees, meaning they are being held indefinitely without charges. More than 30 of them are women, while 170 are children.
Qatar's foreign ministry confirmed to Reuters its involvement in mediation talks with Hamas and Israeli officials, including over a possible prisoner swap, though an Israeli government official denied this claim.
Israel has made exchanges in the past, notably a 2011 swap in which it released more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners to secure the release of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, whom Hamas had held captive for five years.
Negotiations for another potential swap appeared to fall apart last year. Hamas was seeking the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the bodies of two IDF soldiers killed during the 2014 war, as well as two civilians held captive for years.
Hostages at risk
Wright said it's unlikely the Israeli government will be willing to enter into any form of diplomacy with Hamas until it "has punished Hamas, incapacitated its military wing [and] destroyed its arsenal."
But there are ominous warnings coming from both sides that raise fears about the safety of hostages.
Others in the Israeli government have called for little mercy.
"We have to be cruel now and not to think too much about the hostages [in Gaza]. It's time for action," said Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, according to a report from the Israeli news outlet Haaretz.
In audio also released Monday, Abu Obeida, a spokesperson for the Al-Qassam brigade, Hamas's military wing, vowed the group would execute one hostage anytime Israel kills Palestinian civilians in their homes in Gaza "without prior warning" of airstrikes.
His mother’s fate is unknown after kibbutz raid
Featured VideoYonatan Zeigen was on the phone with his Canadian mother, Vivian Silver, when Hamas raided her kibbutz. Since then, he's spent days worrying and wondering about what happened to her.
Hamas claims four Israeli captives, along with their captors, have already been killed in Israeli strikes on the Palestinian enclave since Sunday.
It's news such as this that makes the already strenuous situation for families like Yaffa Adar's even more gruelling.
"I have a message, I have a hope that [Hamas and Islamic Jihad] will understand that these people have done nothing wrong," said Avda Adar. "I hope they treat them OK. Please bring them back home for us. They have done nothing wrong."
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