FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 16, 2024
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ICYMI: HAMAS KILLS TWO ISRAELI HOSTAGES, USES REMAINING HOSTAGES AS HUMAN SHIELDS, FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Hamas terrorists killed two hostages whose bodies they are still holding in captivity, Yossi Sharabi, 53, and Itai Svirsky, 38. Yossi and Itai were taken hostage during the October 7th massacre and have remained in captivity for more than 100 days. Today, 136 hostages held by Hamas remain in captivity. In the days leading to the death of the hostages, Hamas released a video including a “guessing game” on the fate of three hostages, including the two who were killed. The Israeli government criticized the video in a tweet, calling it a “sick game.”
This news comes as C.I.A. intelligence reveals that top Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar is hiding deep within a tunnel network in Gaza (in the Khan Younis area, where IDF operations are currently focused), according to the New York Times. U.S. officials believe he is surrounded by hostages, using them as human shields. This report is one of many demonstrating that Hamas has used hostages – and civilians in Gaza – as human shields in violation of international law, leading to condemnation from International observers like the EU. Hamas terrorists have conducted high-level military operations out of schools and hospitals, where they have also held hostages captive.
- Israel had estimated before Oct. 7 that Hamas had 20,000 to 25,000 fighters. By the end of 2023, Israel had told American officials they believed they had killed roughly a third of that force.
- Targeting Mr. Sinwar is not simply a matter of finding him. Mr. Sinwar is believed to be hiding in the deepest part of the tunnel network under Khan Younis in southern Gaza, according to U.S. officials. But he is also believed to be surrounded by hostages and using them as human shields, vastly complicating a military operation to capture or kill him.
- Before the Oct. 7 attack, Hamas was a level four priority, meaning few resources were dedicated to collecting intelligence on the group. Since then, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which helps oversee intelligence priorities, has raised Hamas to a level two priority, according to U.S. officials. Level one, on which the vast majority of intelligence resources are expended, is reserved for international adversaries that could pose a more direct threat to the United States, including China, Russia, North Korea and Iran.
- Sharabi, 53, was taken hostage from Kibbutz Beeri, one of the hardest hit communities in the Hamas assault, along with his brother. His wife managed to save their daughters while his brother’s family was killed.
- Svirsky, 35, was also taken from Kibbutz Beeri after being shot and wounded and witnessing the killing of his mother. His father was also killed.
- A day earlier Hamas aired a video showing the three hostages and promising to disclose their fate. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Monday that Hamas carries out “psychological abuse” with its handling of the hostages.