US intelligence has determined a Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket was responsible for deaths of 471 civilians in a Gaza hospital.
Hamas has released the first video of a hostage, as fears intensify for at least 199 people kidnapped from Israel and taken to Gaza.
The short video clip shows Mia Schem, 21, lying on a bed, her right arm being bandaged by someone out of the frame. A long, fresh scar is clearly visible. Mia is one of dozens of young people taken from the Nova music festival during the Hamas invasion on October 7.
Speaking in Hebrew, she said: “I only ask that you get me out of here as soon as possible, please.”
Mia’s mother, Keren Scharf Schem, responded: “I am begging the world to bring my baby back home. She only went to a festival party to have some fun and now she is in Gaza, and she is not the only one.”
Israelis and foreign nationals — including babies, children with special needs and octogenarians with chronic health issues — are among those dragged by terrorists into Gaza. An IDF spokesman said this week that the military had some information about their whereabouts and would not carry out an attack that could endanger them.
The Hostage and Missing Families Forum, which represents some 700 relatives of those missing, sent a message to the Red Cross asking for humanitarian intervention. It said some of those abducted were in urgent need of treatment and lifesaving medication and were undergoing “unimaginable suffering.”
On a solidarity visit to Israel this week, US President Joe Biden said his top priority was the release of the hostages and that he was “working with partners throughout the region” to bring them home.
US support, humanitarian aid
“I come to Israel with a single message: You are not alone,” Biden told Israelis.
Referring to the October 7 massacre as the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust, he added, “The world watched then, it knew, and the world did nothing. We will not stand by and do nothing again. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.”
Biden’s discussions with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu achieved breakthroughs in both military aid to Israel and humanitarian aid to Gaza.
Netanyahu said the US has agreed to a “massive, unprecedented” military aid package to help Israel win the war against Hamas. Axios reported that the US is also considering bringing in its own military forces if Hezbollah joins the war.
Israel has agreed to enable humanitarian aid to Gaza civilians from Egypt via the Rafah crossing but will not support humanitarian efforts via Israel until the hostages are returned.
It is also demanding Red Cross visits to the hostages and says any aid that reaches Hamas will be “thwarted”.
The humanitarian situation in Gaza worsened with a massive explosion at the Al-Ahli Hospital on Tuesday. Fire engulfed the hospital halls, scattering shattered glass and body parts across the area. The Hamas-run Health Ministry said at least 471 people had been killed.
Hamas blamed an Israeli air raid for the explosion, but both the IDF and US say the fire was caused by a misfired rocket from Palestinian Islamic Jihad. President Biden said that US intelligence was convincing on the issue and Israel released aerial photos to prove there were no signs of Israeli planes striking the hospital.
Netanyahu said: “Let the world know, the barbaric terrorists in Gaza are the ones who attacked the Gaza hospital, not the IDF. Those who brutally murdered our children are also murdering their own.”
Protesters in Arab countries blamed Israel for the hospital attack and held a “day of rage”, forcing embassies in Egypt and Morocco to be evacuated.
In other developments:
- Rocket fire from Gaza continued to bombard Israel
- Rockets from Lebanon intensified, prompting Israel to evacuate residents from 28 communities which are located within 2 kilometres of the northern border. Residents of some Arab villages are refusing to leave
- Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have left northern Gaza as Israel readies for an expected ground offensive against Hamas. But despite the dangers, many are unwilling or unable to evacuate
- The Committee to Protect Journalists said on Wednesday that three Israeli, one Lebanese and 13 Palestinian journalists have died since October 7. Reports of other journalists being killed, missing, detained, hurt or threatened being investigated
- West Bank Palestinians continued to report increased harassment by settlers
- World leaders expressed support for Israel with solidarity visits from UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and French President Emmanuel Macron scheduled. Romanian Prime Minister Ion-Marcel Ciolacu arrived on Tuesday, the first world leader to visit Israel since start of war.
Photo: Keren Scharf Schem, mother of Mia Schem, holds a photo of her daughter during a press conference by families of the abducted held by Hamas militants in Gaza (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)