The ominous moment Hamas gunmen seemingly growled ‘keep waving’ as they handed over Israeli hostages to Red Cross workers this weekend has sparked outrage among Israeli officials who slammed the Palestinian group’s ‘propaganda’.
Footage released by official Hamas channels and circulated by Reuters showed how a group of hostages were led towards Red Cross trucks to ferry them across the border and back to safety.
Initially it looked just like one of several handover clips published by the Palestinian group that yesterday negotiated an additional two days of ceasefire pending the release of more hostages as it staves off further bombardment from Israel’s Defence Forces.
But while Hamas aims to project an image of humane treatment, in this particular video one of the masked militants, brandishing an automatic rifle, menacingly says ‘keep waving’ as his charges pile into the back of a van.
Israeli government spokesman Ofir Gendelman said in a post on X: ‘Hamas’ disgusting staged propaganda. They forced the released Israeli hostages to smile and wave for the cameras.
‘You can hear the terrorist telling them in a threatening voice: “keep waving”.’
Despite many hostages returning relatively physically unharmed, most have experienced weight loss and described challenging conditions in captivity, and several children handed over by Hamas have been separated from their parents who were either killed or remain in captivity.
One captee, 84-year-old Elma Avraham, was released in a serious condition and is now fighting for her life due to a lack of vital medications during her 50-day ordeal, while another 21-year-old, Maya Regev, was returned on Sunday night with a bullet wound.
A pair of Israeli hostages are seen waving back at their captors as they are loaded into the back of a Red Cross van
Several clips released by Hamas have shown the moment hostages were handed over
In this clip, the masked Hamas militant appears to say ‘keep waving’
The heart-rending moment Maya was reunited with her family was also captured this weekend in bittersweet footage.
Maya was one of 58 hostages released by Hamas over the course of the past four days of ceasefire between Israel’s Defence Forces and the Palestinian group.
She was abducted from the Nova music festival – where 364 people lost their lives as Hamas gunmen streamed over the border on motorbikes, in trucks and with paragliders – but not before she caught a stray bullet.
Despite her injuries, Maya managed to cling to life and spent some 50 days languishing in captivity ahead of her eventual release on Saturday night, with harrowing photos showing how she was hauled out of a Red Cross van and escorted by masked Hamas militants as she shuffled about on crutches.
In the clip, Maya can be heard sobbing as she embraced her family while sitting in her hospital bed, elated to have been freed and in the company of loved ones, but mourning for her teen brother Itay, 18, who remains in Hamas captivity.
Itay is one of several Hamas hostages that the terror group say they cannot locate.
Though some hostages were held by Hamas officials, others were split up and taken away by Gazan civilian groups or armed gangs, according to Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, who led the effort to broker the ceasefire between the IDF and Hamas.
As the IDF continues its operations in Gaza to try and locate and free the remaining hostages, Maya is set to undergo surgery to repair damage dealt by the bullet wound.
She was described as being in ‘moderate condition’ by Soroka hospital staff, with Dr Shlomi Kodesh telling Israel’s i24 News her life was not in danger but that surgery was necessary for Maya to make a full recovery.
A Hamas fighter and Red Cross medics help newly released Israeli hostage Maya Regev into a Red Cross vehicle in the Gaza Strip
Maya, an attendee at the Nova music festival, was shot and subsequently kidnapped on October 7
Her reunion with family members in Soroka hospital in the Israeli city of Be’er-Sheva, captured in heart-rending video footage, was bittersweet
Medical staff watch on as Maya embraces her family members ahead of surgery
Much like Maya, several of the hostages released by Hamas this weekend find themselves confronting a dark new reality.
They have been granted their freedom, but are now burdened by the knowledge that other members of their family are still in captivity, or worse, were slaughtered on October 7.
Two such newly freed hostages are siblings Noam and Alma Or, aged 16 and 13.
They were greeted by joyful grandparents, as well as their older brother Yali, 18, on Saturday before undergoing medical checks following their lengthy captivity.
But the teens’ elation at regaining their freedom quickly evaporated when they were informed that their mum Yonat had been gunned down by Hamas attackers in kibbutz Be’eri on October 7.
Uncle Ahal Besorai, a British-Israeli lawyer, told The Guardian how the kids broke down upon hearing their mother’s fate.
‘Unfortunately, they were not aware that my sister, their mum, was murdered,’ he said.
‘Suddenly they come to see their loved ones for the first time in 50 days and the first piece of news that they are confronted with is that their mum is no longer alive. I think it was very traumatic, there were a lot of tears, a lot of pain.’
The youngest hostage released this weekend – four-year-old dual Israeli-American citizen Abigail Edan – also lost both of her parents in the October 7 attacks.
‘What she endured was unthinkable,’ Biden said of the first American freed under the truce. He did not know her condition and did not provide updates on other American hostages.