Dozens of people are believed to have been captured in Israel by Hamas fighters over the weekend. They are now being held in locations across Gaza, complicating Israel’s response to the militant group’s deadly attack on Saturday.
Israel is taking pains to establish the exact number of hostages that have been taken into Gaza, an isolated coastal enclave of almost 2 million people crammed into 140 square miles, one of the most densely populated places in the world.
In addition to Israeli captives, there are several other nationalities believed to be taken hostage. Two Mexican nationals, a woman and a man, have “presumably” been taken hostage by Hamas, Mexico’s Foreign Minister Alicia Barcena said on Sunday. At least three Brazilian nationals are also missing, according Brazilian authorities.
Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, has warned that Israeli attacks in the area could impact hostages, with its spokesman, Abu Obaida, saying in a recorded audio message Saturday that they were “present in all axes in the Gaza Strip.”
It has been more than 17 years since an Israeli soldier was taken as a prisoner of war in an assault on Israeli territory. And Israel has not seen this kind of infiltration of military bases, towns and kibbutzim since town-by-town fighting in the 1948 war of independence.
Here’s what we know about some of the hostages taken by Hamas.
Hundreds of attendees at the Nova music festival ran across the plains of the Negev Desert near Urim, a community close to the Gaza Strip, trying to escape Hamas gunmen pursuing them in vehicles in a terrifying chase. Some were killed and others were seized by armed captors, social media videos showed.
Details of hostages from the attack are beginning to emerge as family members recognize relatives in the clips circulating online.
Her cousin confirmed to the Washington Post that Louk attended the music festival.
“We recognized her by the tattoos, and she has long dreadlocks,” Louk’s cousin told the Washington Post. “We have some kind of hope… Hamas is responsible for her and the others.”
Israeli border communities
Hamas fighters took hostages in the border community Be’eri, and the town of Ofakim, 20 miles east of Gaza, IDF spokesman Brig. Gen. Daniel Hagari said on Saturday, adding that the two locations were the “main focal points” of the unfolding crisis.
In a televised address, he said that there were special forces with senior commanders in the two communities, and fighting was ongoing in 22 locations.
Residents in Be’eri and another community on Israel’s border with Gaza, Nir Oz, told the country’s Channel 12 television station that assailants were going door to door, trying to break into their homes.
Channel 12 also reported that infiltrators had taken hostages in Netiv HaAsara. Israeli authorities did not immediately confirm any details about those reports.
“I don’t even know what the situation is regarding the hostages, and the situation is not looking good,” Yoni Asher said, adding that he tracked his wife’s phone and learned that it was located in Gaza.
Al Qassam Brigades claimed to capture “dozens” of Israeli soldiers on Saturday.
“We bring good news to our (Palestinian) prisoners and our people that the al Qassam Brigades have dozens of captured (Israeli) officers and soldiers in their hands,” the group’s spokesman Abu Obaida said in a post on Telegram. “They have been secured in safe places and resistance tunnels.”
The video, posted to Hamas’ official social media accounts, shows militants yank two clearly terrified and stunned soldiers out of a disabled tank. It’s unclear from the video how the tank was disabled, but Hamas has used drones to drop bombs onto Israeli tanks before.
One of the soldiers is then seen in a short snippet of video being kicked on the ground by the militants. In the next clip, the soldier is seen lying motionless on the ground.
A second video, taken afterward, shows a number of different armed men around the tank. The three soldiers are nowhere to be seen.
The armed men are then seen pulling a fourth Israeli soldier from the tank. The soldier is motionless as he’s dragged down the side of the tank and onto the ground. The armed men are seen stomping on his body.