‘Stay strong,’ parents urge Hersh Goldberg-Polin after Hamas airs propaganda clip
Israel at warFour arrested as protests held against Netanyahu

‘Stay strong,’ parents urge Hersh Goldberg-Polin after Hamas airs propaganda clip

Israeli-American hostage, 23, with missing hand, seen fuming at government for failing to free abductees for 200 days, describing ‘hell’ in Gaza captivity

Israeli-American hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin, 23, held captive in Gaza since October 7, in a Hamas propaganda video released on April 24, 2024. (Screenshot: Telegram via The Times of Israel)
Israeli-American hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin, 23, held captive in Gaza since October 7, in a Hamas propaganda video released on April 24, 2024. (Screenshot: Telegram via The Times of Israel)

The Hamas terror group published a propaganda video Wednesday showing signs of life from 23-year-old Israeli-American hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin, prompting relief and concern for his parents, and sparking an angry anti-government protest near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s home demanding a deal to return the hostages.

In the nearly three-minute-long video, Goldberg-Polin, who is seen missing one of his hands, vociferously demands that the Israeli government return the hostages from Gaza or step down, echoing a stance increasingly voiced recently by some relatives of the abductees.

The video was not dated, but Goldberg-Polin says he has been held captive for “nearly 200 days” and mentions a “festival” several times, indicating it was likely filmed recently, ahead of the week-long Passover holiday, which began on Monday evening.

A senior US official told The Times of Israel that the White House received the video on Monday and had “since been in touch with the family regarding it.” The video “is being actively examined by the FBI and Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell,” the official added.

Goldberg-Polin was abducted from the Supernova rave near Re’im on the morning of October 7, when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists invaded Israel, killed some 1,200 people and kidnapped 253 hostages.

It is believed that 129 of those hostages remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November, and four hostages were released prior to that. Three hostages have been rescued by troops alive, and the bodies of 12 hostages have been recovered, including those of three mistakenly killed by the military.

The IDF has confirmed the deaths of 34 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.

Videos from the Hamas onslaught have shown that a part of Goldberg-Polin’s arm was blown off, as the Hamas terrorists lobbed grenades into a shelter where he and others who tried to escape the party hid.

Hamas has previously issued similar videos of hostages, in what Israel says is deplorable psychological warfare. Most Israeli media, including The Times of Israel, do not usually carry the video clips themselves, but Goldberg-Polin’s family gave permission Wednesday to the media to use the video.

Posted on Hamas’s official Telegram account, the footage shows Goldberg-Polin, likely speaking under duress, criticizing Netanyahu’s handling of the crisis and the military’s failure to bring the hostages home.

In an apparent reference to Passover, Goldberg-Polin calls on government members, “while you sit and have holiday meals with your families, [to] think of us, the hostages, who are still here in hell,” and “bring us home now.”

He says the hostages have been living “under the ground without water, without food, without sun, without the medical care that I have needed so much for a long, long time.”

“I know you are doing everything for me to return home as soon as possible,” Goldberg-Polin says in the video, addressing his family. “I need you to stay strong for me and not stop fighting until I and each and every one of the hostages return home safely.”

His parents, Rachel Goldberg and Jon Polin, who have extensively campaigned for their son’s release, said in a statement that “seeing the video of Hersh today is overwhelming. We are relieved to see him alive, but we are also concerned about his health and wellbeing as well as that of all the other hostages and all of those suffering in this region.”

Goldberg-Polin’s parents offered a plea to all of the leaders who have been negotiating for a hostage deal, naming Qatar, Egypt, the United States, Hamas and Israel.

“Be brave, lean in, seize this moment and get a deal done to reunite all of us with our loved ones and end the suffering in this region,” they urged. “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.”

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum said in a statement that “Hersh’s cry is the collective cry of all the hostages – their time is rapidly running out.”

“We cannot afford to waste any more time; the hostages must be the top priority,” the statement added. “All the hostages must be brought home — those alive to begin the process of rehabilitation, and those murdered for a dignified burial.”

‘Bring them home’ protests

Shortly after the video was published, hundreds of protesters headed to Jerusalem’s Azza Street and demonstrated near Netanyahu’s private home, holding pictures of Goldberg-Polin and other hostages and demanding a deal to bring them all home.

They banged on drums and shouted, “It’s time to bring them home,” tossing cartons into a bonfire in the middle of the street.

One protester’s sign read: “Hersh is alive now!”

Protesters then began marching toward Paris Square, dragging police barricades from the side of the road and blocking the top of Azza Street and the intersection toward downtown Jerusalem.

At least four protesters were arrested by police for disturbing the peace, turning over garbage cans and blocking the street.

Police deployed mounted officers and used water cannons and foul-smelling “skunk spray” to disperse the crowds.

In Tel Aviv, protesters and families of the hostages stood on Begin Street, in front of the Defense Ministry headquarters, with signs that read: “Abandonment equals 133 hostages divided by 201 days.”

IDF: Our hearts are with you

An official familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel on Wednesday that the Israeli intelligence assessment before the video’s release had been that Goldberg-Polin was still alive.

The intelligence assessment determined that Goldberg-Polin had undergone some kind of surgery after he was kidnapped into Gaza, the official said.

The 23-year-old had fled to the field shelter with roughly two dozen other attendees when the onslaught began.

When terrorists began hurling grenades into the shelter, Goldberg-Polin’s friend Aner Shapira managed to toss seven grenades back out, saving those inside before he was killed by the eighth grenade.

Goldberg-Polin also tried to pick up one of the grenades to save those inside but it detonated before he could fully throw it out, causing him to lose half of his arm, the official said, adding that it was a “miracle” that he managed to survive the ordeal on October 7 as well as the likely sub-par medical treatment that he received thereafter.

US and Israeli authorities are still reviewing the propaganda video, but early indications are that it has proven the intelligence assessment accurate, the official said.

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said later Tuesday that the video of Goldberg-Polin was “an urgent call for action,” while vowing that the military “will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to find our hostages.”

“This psychological terror video is not only a reminder of what Hamas did on October 7th, It is a reminder of how sick this terror group is, terrorizing the hostages and their families too,” Hagari said in an English-language video statement.

“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 fulfill this critical mission,” he added.

The video was a “gesture” by Hamas to Qatar, which is mediating between the parties, a source familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel.

Hamas sent the video to Qatar and Doha passed it along to the US on Monday, the source said.

The US had been pressing Qatar for months to secure proof of life for Goldberg-Polin and the other American hostages, the source said, adding that Doha’s ability to deliver would likely boost its image as a mediator, which has come under fire from Israeli and US lawmakers. PJC

AFP contributed to this report.

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