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Families of Israeli hostages release video of female soldiers being captured by Hamas

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JERUSALEM (AP) — A group representing the families of hostages held in Gaza has released new video footage showing Hamas’ capture of five female Israeli soldiers near the Gaza border on Oct. 7.

The video shows several of the young soldiers bloody and wounded. In one scene, a militant tells one of the terrified women she is beautiful.

The footage was taken by Hamas militants who stormed the Nahal Oz military base, part of the militant group’s wider assault on southern Israel that killed roughly 1,200 people and took about 250 others hostage.

Seven female soldiers who worked as lookouts on the border with Gaza were taken captive from Nahal Oz, said the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, which released the footage. All were 19 or 20.

The army rescued one of the women early in the war in a ground operation and said a second was killed in Hamas captivity. The five women in the video are believed to still be held by Hamas.

The Israeli army recently declassified the video and turned it over to the women’s families. The forum said the families made the footage public in an attempt to pressure the government into reaching a cease-fire deal with Hamas that would free their loved ones.

“Every new testimony about what happened to the hostages echoes the same tragic truth — we must bring them all back home, now,” the forum said in a statement. “The Israeli government must not waste another moment.”

Israel has released similar photos and videos from the Oct. 7 rampage in a campaign aimed at shoring up support for the ongoing war in Gaza.

The footage released Wednesday is roughly three minutes and edited, with some images blurred to censor what the forum said is especially sensitive material.

It shows a group of more than a dozen armed militants binding the soldiers, two of whom had visible bloodstains on their faces.

In the video, the women try to converse with the militants. One says in English, “I have friends in Palestine.”

One militant yells back in English for them to be quiet. In other scenes, militants kneel to pray in front of at least four of the female soldiers, who are handcuffed and seated on the ground. One bears visible cuts on her legs, and her blood pools onto the ground beneath her as a militant binds her hands behind her back.

At least one of the soldiers appears to be in her pajamas, with blood visible on her face. One of the militants points at her and, in English, says, “You are beautiful.”

In a statement, Hamas called the video “a manipulated excerpt” whose authenticity “cannot be verified.” The militant group said the minor injuries and blood on the soldiers “is to be expected in such operations,” but denied physically assaulting the women.

Israel’s offensive on Gaza, launched in response to the Hamas attack, has killed about 35,000 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Ashley Waxman Bakshi, a cousin of Agam Berger, one of the women in the video, said that she cried the first time she saw it.

“Toward the end, I felt like I was going to throw up. I think any person who watches this video will understand that feeling, especially as a woman,” she said.

Other footage shows the militants dragging two of the female soldiers toward a jeep as gunfire rattles. One is led to the vehicle barefoot, hopping on one foot because of an apparent leg injury.

In another scene, a group of militants holds a hostage by their hands and feet. It is not clear whether the hostage is alive or dead. Another scene shows three of the female soldiers in the back of a moving vehicle, faces bloodied as militants yell around them. Berger, who is wearing a brown shirt, is one of them.

“We know she’s alive. We can feel it. She has a twin sister, she feels her,” Bakshi said of her cousin. “She was taken hostage not severely injured. You can see from the video.”

By JULIA FRANKEL
Associated Press

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