Amid the devastating war between Israel and Hamas, relatives of Israeli hostages have had to learn of their kidnappings through frantic, whispered phone calls and videos posted on social media.
Israeli officials have now identified and notified the families of 199 hostages captured during the surprise attack led by Hamas, an Israel Defense Forces spokesman said Monday.
In a video statement released Monday, a spokesman for the armed wing of Hamas said there are 200 to 250 people being held in Gaza. He claimed that 22 of the hostages died in bombings by Israeli forces.
Hamas would be willing to release all civilian hostages if Israel stops its airstrikes on Gaza, a senior Hamas official told NBC News on Tuesday. Some of the hostages are in Hamas’ captivity, while others are being held by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another group based in Gaza, and by “random Gaza citizen opportunists,” according to a former U.S. official briefed on the matter.
These accounts of kidnappings are based on interviews with the families and, in many cases, videos showing apparent abductions. In some instances, groups of relatives disappeared at the same time, and family members have been left to wonder whether they are alive and missing, among the hostages or dead.