He is still being held in Gaza, according to Israeli authorities at least 240 civilian hostages and prisoners of warbut did not provide their exact numbers. Among the hostages are 33 children, several elderly people, foreigners or persons with dual citizenship, as well as several Israeli soldiers. Hamas has so far released four civilian hostages. These were two US citizens who were released on October 20, and the other two women were released on October 24.
In recent days, however, they took to the streets in Israel thousands of people to protest against the Israeli government’s actions so far. They demanded that their loved ones return home.
Ella Ben Ami, whose parents Raz and Ohad Ben Ami were kidnapped from Be’eri in the October 7 attack, is among those who have joined the recent protests. Amnesty International said her mother is ill and suffering from brain and spinal injuries.
“It’s been 30 days since my parents were kidnapped from their home. All that remains is a terrible helplessness and enormous uncertainty… I have no information about their situation, which makes it very difficult for me to function on a daily basis. With the protest, we want to raise awareness of the hostages and demand that they be taken care of, as well as press for their release. I am asking my government and all world leaders to help us. We want to see our parents alive again. If my mother doesn’t get the medicine she needs for her illness, we’re afraid she won’t survive, we don’t have time,” Ella described.
Yonatan Zeigen, whose 74-year-old mother Vivian Silver, a peace activist and former board member of the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, was abducted from Kibbutz Be’eri in southern Israel on October 7, told Amnesty International:
“I feel sadness and pain for my mother, for all the hostages, our communities and the Palestinian people. I believe it is an awakening to the fact that both sides have been unable to achieve peace for so long. I call for a ceasefire and the release of all hostages as the first step towards a comprehensive solution. Security can only be achieved through peace.”
Mosh Lotem, whose daughter Hagar is being held hostage in Gaza along with her three young children, the youngest of whom is only four years old, has a similar view of the current situation.
“What Hamas and other armed groups have done has not only harmed their neighbors, who care most about the Palestinian people and their rights in Israel, but has also harmed its own people. It is very difficult for me as a father and grandfather that my family was taken from me in this way and I have no information about them. I miss her a lot. Each passing day gets harder and harder. They are in a very vulnerable situation and attacks [v Gaze] it scares me very much. I am calling on international organizations, be it the UN or the Red Cross, to bring the hostages back home,” Moshi Lotem described.
Last week, a video published by the Al-Qassam Brigades – the military wing of Hamas – in which three civilian hostages held in Gaza speak to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went viral. Recording and publicly sharing coerced hostage statements is tantamount inhuman and degrading treatment.
“Instead of using hostages in distress as a tool to score political points, Hamas should release them immediately and unconditionally. At a minimum, it should allow independent observers immediate access to hostages to ensure their well-being and facilitate communication with their families,”
– Agnés Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International
The Geneva Conventions, their Additional Protocols and international humanitarian law prohibit hostage-taking, which is considered a war crime. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines this crime as the capture or detention of a person (hostage) accompanied by the threat of death, injury or further detention with the aim of compelling a third party to act or refrain from acting as an express or implied condition for the safety or release of the hostage.
Amnesty urges Hamas and other armed groups to treat all hostages held, including Israeli soldiers, humanely and in accordance with international humanitarian law. All hostages should be allowed access to the International Committee of the Red Cross and communication with their families. The injured or sick must be given medical attention.
Hamas and other armed groups must also ensure that hostages and other captives are held in places far from military targets and to minimize the risk of being hit by Israeli strikes. Under no circumstances may they be used to protect military targets from attack.
As Israel’s vicious siege and relentless bombing of Gaza continues and the number of civilian casualties continues to rise, Amnesty repeats its call for an immediate ceasefireto protect all civilians and ensure access to vital aid amid the humanitarian disaster in Gaza.
“Continuous Israeli bombardment of Gaza, including through illegal and indiscriminate attacks, has killed, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health more than 10,000 Palestinians, including 4,200 children. It also threatens Israeli citizens held hostage in Gaza and goes against the calls of their families to prioritize the safety of hostages in military operations,” added Agnès Callamard.
Developments in Gaza so far
Amnesty International has gathered evidence of violations of international law, including war crimes, committed by all parties to the conflict.
Since the horrific attacks by Hamas and other armed groups on October 7, in addition to the devastating bombing, Israel has intensified its an illegal 16-year blockade Gaza. It has cut off the territory from supplies of water, fuel and other vital commodities, deepening the humanitarian crisis there.
Israeli forces as well arrested more than 2,000 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and intensified the use of torture and other ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners. They have also denied access to family visits to all Palestinian prisoners, currently over 6,800. Convicted prisoners were also denied access to their lawyers. Even the International Committee of the Red Cross were not allowed to reach the Palestinian prisoners, as Israel classifies them as so-called “security prisoners”. Over the past month, four Palestinian prisoners have died in Israeli custody under conditions that have not been adequately investigated.
Amnesty’s research has also gathered evidence of war crimes committed by Israeli forces, including indiscriminate bombing attacks in Gaza that have reduced residential buildings to rubble, razed entire neighborhoods and claimed the lives of many families.
Amnesty International also documented how Hamas and other armed groups opened fire on Israel on October 7 indiscriminate rockets and their fighters mass-killed and abducted civilians. According to Israeli authorities, at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians, were killed. Civilians in Israel also continue to be attacked by indiscriminate rocket fire from Hamas and other armed groups.