The White House has said that eight more American citizens as well as a US permanent resident are believed to still be among those captives held by Hamas.
So far, dozens of young people and children have been released along with many elderly, mostly women. Israel says that since the truce went into effect last Friday, at least nine children still remain captive in the Strip, after 31 young people have been released so far. It should be noted that Israel is classifying 18-year old hostages as among the children still held.
But currently, there are questions as to Israel’s so far failed attempts to gain the release of the youngest captives: Kfir Bibas at 10-months old, and Ariel Bibas at 4-years old. The two are brothers and were kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Oz on Oct.7. Will Hamas release them? There are reports that the siblings have been separated from their mother Shiri Bibas – who was also kidnapped – while in captivity, and that this is intended to make it harder to release them as a family.
“Due to Kfir’s extraordinarily young age, the redheaded children have become some of the most recognizable among the hostages,” The Times of Israel noted. “The family was kidnapped by Hamas, but at some point was transferred to another Palestinian terror group in Gaza, the military said Monday.”
On Tuesday family members of the young Bibas brothers spoke to Sky News of the agonizing and gut-wrenching ordeal on waiting for information on their fate. Below is the interview segment with Shiri’s cousin Yifat:
She said: “What are these groups? We reach a dead end every time we try to figure out why Hamas is having so much trouble getting them back or whether that means if they’re alive or not.
“It’s really frustrating. It feels very far away, although it’s really close by. Hamas is ruling over the strip, and I hope that whichever group is holding them will oblige and will give them [back]. They said that they’re going to move those hostages into Hamas hands, so I hope those groups will do that as well.”
If Shiri Bibas and her children have been passed on to another group, it will explain why they haven’t been released and complications.
“I think they’re playing games with the psychological games,” said Yifat.
“It’s brutal. But what can you expect from a terror organization that did such horrendous things? It’s amazing that a baby became some sort of a card or, you know, a winning card or a trophy holding him hostage like this to get more arms or, I don’t know, fuel for their missile launchers.”
As the temporary truce has already been extended for two more days, and with a deal being negotiated to possibly see a four-day extension, the sixth round of hostages are now expected to be released. What is the likelihood of the infant and toddler siblings being released?
The Bibas family with 10 month old Kfir and 4yr old Ariel are once again not on the list of hostages set to be released today.
— Anna Ahronheim (@AAhronheim) November 29, 2023
Geopolitical observer and security analyst Michael Horowitz has pointed to the sad reality that Israel is unlikely to secure their freedom any time soon. He explains why in the thread below [emphasis ZH]…
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To me the reason is fairly obvious. Hamas wants to drag this on for as long as possible, keep leverage until the end, and is thus purposefully separating families, and keeping the hostages with the most “emotional charge” (particulary the 10-months-old Bibas baby) for the end – if they release them at all.
Now there have been reports that Hamas is claiming it has less hostages than initially thought, and that the group has “lost control” of some of them. Though many commentators even in Israel appear to agree Hamas may have lost control, I tend to believe this is incorrect. Hamas (and this is also not an Israeli success) is still in control: For four days, there were no rocket attacks, not even the odd failed missile attack by one of the fringe jihadist factions in Gaza.
There were claims that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the other major faction in Gaza, was refusing to hand over hostages. But the two hostages we know for a fact were taken by the PIJ (Hannah Katzir and Yaagil Yakov) have both been released… by Hamas. This is not to mention that Hila Rotem said Hamas separated her from her mother, two days before her release.
The IDF spokesperson also said yesterday that Hamas transferred the Bibas family to another Palestinian faction. This ensures, the group can continue to delay, drag its feets, and offer other hostages, while keeping some of the most mediatized Israelis (including a 10-month-old baby) to extend the pause in fighting. Beyond that, giving hostages to other groups also ensures they “buy-into” Hamas’s strategy, and don’t avoid a fight, if it comes (or more likely, when it comes)