Israel releases film of female conscripts held by Hamas

By Thomson Reuters May 22, 2024 | 11:18 AM

By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli television aired previously withheld footage on Wednesday of five pyjama-clad female army conscripts being seized by Hamas gunmen during the Oct. 7 raid that triggered the Gaza war.

The captives’ families hoped the footage would increase pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to agree a truce with Hamas and secure the hostages’ release.

The government saw the release of the subtitled three-minute clip to national and international media as an opportunity to shore up support.

“These girls are still in the captivity of Hamas. Please don’t look away,” government spokesperson David Mencer told reporters. “Watch the film. Support Israel in bringing our people home.”

The footage shows the young women, all of them stunned and some bloodied, being bound and bundled into a jeep.

“I have friends in Palestine,” one of the conscripts, 19-year-old Naama Levy, pleads in English.

One of the gunmen can be heard shouting back in Arabic: “You are dogs! We will step on you, dogs!”

Another gunman tells a captive: “You’re beautiful.”

The Hostages Families Forum, which represents relatives of the 124 people – mostly civilians – still held by Hamas, said the footage was recovered from bodycams worn by gunmen who attacked the Nahal Oz base in southern Israel where the women served as surveillance spotters.

Shots of slain Israeli soldiers were excluded and publication was approved by the families of the five captives, the forum said.

“The Israeli government must not waste another moment; it must return to the negotiating table today!”, the Forum said.

Israel says 1,200 people were killed and more than 250 abducted in the Oct. 7 attack led by Hamas. Israel responded by launching an offensive to eliminate the Islamist militant group in which Gaza health authorities say more than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed. Israel’s military says 286 Israeli soldiers have also been killed.

Netanyahu’s government says continued military pressure will force Hamas to yield. Hostage families fear their loved ones will not survive and that the women captives may be raped. Hamas has denied allegations of sexual abuse by its men.

“So please, please do whatever you can to, to bring them home,” Orly Gilboa, whose daughter Daniela is a hostage, told Reuters. “They suffer there every minute, every second. And every minute is important.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said the ambassadors of Ireland, Norway and Spain, whom it summoned to protest at their governments’ preparations to recognise a Palestinian state, would be shown the video in a special screening on Thursday.

(Additional reporting by Michal Yaakov Itzhaki, Editing by Timothy Heritage)