Updated April 25th, 2024 at 19:35 IST

Father of Israeli-American Hostage Urges Son to Stay Strong After he Appears in Hamas Video

The video released by Hamas marks the first time Hersh Goldberg-Polin, 23, was seen alive after being taken hostage by the group during the October 7 attack.

Reported by: Digital Desk
Hersh Goldberg-Polin, 23, was taken hostage by Hamas while he was attending the Supernova music festival on October 7, 2023. | Image:AP
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Jerusalem: The parents of an Israeli-American hostage who appeared in a Hamas video this week have released a video statement that, among other things, calls on their son to stay strong and survive while also urging all parties negotiating for a ceasefire in Gaza to “end the suffering in the region”. Hersh Goldberg-Polin, 23, was attending the Supernova music festival near the Gaza border on October 7 when Hamas and its affiliate groups carried out their unprecedented attack on southern Israel. As many as 1,200 people died in the attack and around 250, including Hersh, were taken hostage and imprisoned somewhere within Gaza. 

More than six months later, around half of the hostages taken have been recovered in some form or another. Israeli intelligence sources claim that around 40 hostages have died in the Strip during the recent months and efforts to find and rescue the rest continue. 

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On Wednesday, a nearly three-minute video of Hersh appeared on a Telegram account associated with Hamas. The circumstances and timing of the video are not known though Hersh mentions that he has been in captivity for 200 days. Additionally, he makes an apparent reference to the ongoing Passover holidays when he says “While you (government officials) sit and have holiday meals with your families, think of us, the hostages, who are still in hell.” 

The tone of the video is both urgent and accusatory. While emphasising the poor condition that he and other hostages have had to endure while in captivity, Hersh accuses the Israeli government of abandoning the hostages. As he holds up a stub of an arm that was blown off during the Hamas assault on a bomb shelter he was hiding in on October 7, Hersh repeatedly emphasises that he needs urgent care and that he is being denied food and water. 

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Psychological warfare 

Coming at a time when there is increasing pressure on the Benjamin Netanyahu government to conclude negotiations with Hamas and bring back the hostages, the video is being seen by Israeli officials as a form of ‘psychological warfare’. In the video statement released by the family, Hersh's father acknowledges the likelihood that his son was reading from a script when he said “It's not clear who wrote what he said.”

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He noted that while he and his wife cried seeing the state of their son in the video, they also gained hope from the fact that, for the first time since he was taken on October 7, his family could see and hear him. 

“Hersh, we heard your voice today for the first time in 201 days and if you can hear us, we are telling you, we love you, stay strong, survive.”

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An unnamed US official told the Times of Israel that the American side had received the Hamas video on Monday before the group had made it public on Wednesday. The video was reportedly passed on to the American side by Qatar who is acting as a mediator in the ongoing ceasefire negotiations.

After receiving the video, American and Israeli officials privately notified Hersh's family while also commencing efforts to examine it. Quoting a source familiar with the matter, the Times of Israel also reported that the current Israeli intelligence assessment is that Hersh is still alive and that he had undergone surgery while in captivity in Gaza. 

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Bring them back now 

Following the release of the hostage video, hundreds of protestors, including friends of Hersh Goldberg-Polin, gathered outside PM Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, holding pictures of the 23-year-old and shouting “It's time to bring them (the hostages) home!” At least four people were reportedly arrested during the protests and Israeli police made use of water cannons and ‘skunk spray’ to disperse the crowds. 

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On Thursday, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) issued its own statement, with spokesperson Daniel Hagari calling the video of Hersh a “call to action” while vowing to make all necessary efforts to bring back hostages. 

"To Hersh’s parents Rachel and Jon: Our hearts are with you. We will continue doing everything in our power to bring your son Hersh and all our hostages back home. Your strength continues to inspire us as we fulfil this critical mission," said Hagari. 

 

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Published April 25th, 2024 at 19:35 IST