Israel confirms the kidnapping of civilians and soldiers, which Hamas numbers in the dozens | International

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The Israeli Army confirmed in mid-afternoon this Saturday what could be seen in videos from the first hour: the unprecedented and elaborate surprise operation by the armed groups in Gaza has not only caused at least 100 deaths, but also dozens of militiamen who managed to infiltrate Israel (by exploiting gaps in the border barrier, opening a crack with an excavator or flying over it with paragliders) have kidnapped civilians and taken soldiers as prisoners of war.

The spokesman for the Armed Forces, Daniel Hagari, has not specified their number, although Abu Obeida, spokesman for the Ezedín Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, has put them in dozens, including "senior officials and soldiers." In the propaganda images, not everyone appears to be alive. The militants also still have hostages in the towns of Ofakim and Bari, where elite Israeli forces have moved.

The videos show situations that until now seemed reserved for fiction, such as that of four Israeli civilians taken to Gaza by force, many others on the ground with their hands behind their heads, a young woman pushed into a vehicle or a confused elderly woman. on the Strip between collective enthusiasm. One group can also be seen forcibly removing two soldiers from a military vehicle and another throwing a soldier, apparently dead, to the ground before trampling him next to the car.

They are people that the militias could have easily killed, since they have controlled several towns in the area for hours and even introduced Israeli armored vehicles into the Strip. The decision is not accidental.

“To our prisoners, I tell you: what we have in our hands will bring your freedom,” Saleh Al Aruri, number two in the Hamas political bureau, told the Al Jazeera television network, referring to the around 4,500 Palestinian prisoners. in Israeli prisons, according to the Israeli human rights NGO Btselem. The Islamic Jihad, which has also claimed responsibility for several kidnappings, has made the release of all prisoners a condition for releasing “all captives in the hands of Palestinian resistance organizations.” Its spokesman, Dawood Shihab, stated this Saturday that Israel keeps Palestinian "women and children" imprisoned, so "they will not take into account" whether the Israeli captives are "adults, women or children."

Over the decades, Israel has freed thousands of prisoners in exchanges. Some have been the usual ones between countries after a war, such as those fought with their neighbors after their creation in 1948, the Six Days in 1967 or the Yom Kippur war in 1973, but others have more to do with the awareness of your enemies that this is their weak point.

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"I think they wanted to kidnap a few people, to use them to negotiate, not to get involved in the threat of their collapse... or their end," he told the newspaper. The Times of Israel Israeli political analyst Avi Issajarof, who points out that the magnitude of this Saturday's operation changes the equation so much that it buries possible agreements behind the scenes and through mediators like the previous ones.

The kidnapping of soldiers is a particularly sensitive issue in Israel. Military service is mandatory for both men (up to three years) and women and there is a kind of tacit agreement by which the State asks its young people to put on the uniform in exchange for the certainty that, if something goes wrong, He will not abandon them to their fate or, at least, he will do everything possible to ensure that they receive a dignified burial.

In 2011, for example, he agreed to release more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for a single soldier, Gilad Shalit, who Hamas was holding in Gaza. He even released 20 Palestinian women from prison two years earlier in exchange for proof that he was alive.

The importance of the corpses could be seen in 2008, when Israel freed five prisoners and returned 200 bodies of Lebanese and Palestinians to recover the lifeless bodies of two soldiers that the Lebanese Hezbollah militia had captured in an operation that triggered a bloody war of 33 days between them. The pill was not particularly bitter because of the number, but because one of them was Samir Kuntar, author of one of the most brutal attacks and sentenced to 542 years in prison for three murders in Israel. His impressive and triumphant reception added salt to the wound. Kuntar was later murdered in 2015.

If that price were maintained, releasing the number of hostages that Hamas presumably holds today would mean emptying Palestinian prisons. But this Saturday's historic attack makes it unthinkable, due to the show of weakness it would mean for Israel. And, above all, because he is preparing to embark first on a “forceful and prolonged campaign”, as the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has defined it in conversation with the President of the United States, Joe Biden.

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