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Updated January 22nd, 2024 at 12:26 IST

IDF Finds Gaza Tunnel Where 20 Hostages, Including 5-year-old, Were Held In ‘Inhuman Conditions’

IDF soldiers discovered a network of tunnels in southern Gaza, where approximately 20 Israeli hostages were found to be held in "severe, inhumane conditions."

Manasvi Asthana
One of the cells contained drawings made by five-year-old hostage Emilia Aloni.
One of the cells contained drawings made by five-year-old hostage Emilia Aloni. | Image:X: @idfonline
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Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers discovered a network of tunnels in southern Gaza, where approximately 20 Israeli hostages were found to be held in "severe and inhumane conditions." Among the captives was a five-year-old child who despite the adversity, expressed hope through drawings while in captivity. 

Disturbing footage posted on Saturday, Jan 20 reveals an extensive tunnel system stretching over half a mile beneath the residence of a Hamas commander in Khan Younis, the largest city in southern Gaza. The IDF reports that this area has witnessed the most intense fighting during the ongoing conflict. 

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Negotiating past numerous booby traps, explosives and other obstacles set by Hamas, the IDF revealed that within the tunnels there was DNA evidence. Combined with testimony from former hostages this evidence confirmed that the subterranean network harbored up to 20 Israelis, including 5-year-old Emilia Aloni.

Drawings made by  5-year-old hostage discovered in the tunnel

Within the confined rooms where the hostages were held, soldiers discovered two drawings created by Emilia. These drawings were left behind by the young girl when she and her mother were liberated in November.

The drawings, seemingly crafted with a pink crayon portray a cheerful home surrounded by flowers, butterflies and a smiling sun emerging from the mountainside. 

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Emilia and her mother, Danielle were confined to one of the five narrow holding cells situated within the tunnel. Each cell contained a single mattress and a toilet, as conveyed by IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari during a news conference on Saturday.

“According to the testimonies we have, about 20 hostages were held in this tunnel at different times under harsh conditions without daylight, in dense air with little oxygen, and terrible humidity that makes breathing difficult,” said Hagari.

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Peeks inside one of the rooms reveal a setup with a mattress, blankets and scattered trash on the floor. The sole means of ventilation seems to be provided by fans positioned at opposite ends.

A different holding cell seemed to contain only a single mattress positioned on the floor within a narrow and empty white room.

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Hagari noted that while individuals such as the Aloni family were released from the cells, the remaining hostages were relocated and are believed to be situated elsewhere in Gaza, presumably enduring even more severe conditions.

Hagari did not specify which of the more than 130 hostages were held in the tunnel, but he indicated that among them are seniors requiring medical assistance.

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The IDF reported that during the inspection of the tunnel beneath Khan Younis, soldiers encountered and engaged several Hamas gunmen who were subsequently killed in the battle. After securing and investigating the tunnel, the IDF allowed some journalists to tour it on Friday before its destruction.

Despite nearly two months passing since the initial hostage exchange involving the Alonis, there is no indication of another agreement between Israel and Hamas for the release of the remaining captives. Families of the hostages have escalated their demonstrations, urging Prime Minister Netanyahu to accept a deal, with one family initiating a hunger strike outside the Israeli leader's residence.

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Some groups have threatened to take extreme actions, including forming blockades to impede humanitarian aid shipments to Gaza. Prime Minister Netanyahu maintains that military pressure in Gaza is crucial for ensuring the hostages' safety, asserting that the conflict will persist until Hamas is eradicated.

Hamas has insisted that an exchange deal will only occur if Israel withdraws its military forces from Gaza and releases every Palestinian held in its prisons.

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Published January 22nd, 2024 at 12:26 IST

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