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Israeli military releases video showing youngest hostage

TEL AVIV, Israel — The Israeli military released a video Monday showing what is believed to be the youngest hostage, his brother and mother being led through the streets of the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis soon after their kidnapping on Oct. 7.

The video provides evidence that Shiri Bibas and her two young boys, Ariel, 4, and Kfir, who was 9 months old at the time, survived the initial kidnapping. The boys are the only children who remain in captivity, along with their mother.

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the military’s chief spokesman, said the army is “very concerned” about the family’s wellbeing. He said the army found the videos in security cameras seized during its offensive in Khan Younis.

The video appears to show Bibas, wrapped in a blanket, being led through a dirt street by her captors as she carries Ariel. The military said it believed that Kfir was in a baby sling and could not be seen under the blanket.

The infant with red hair and a toothless smile has become a symbol across Israel for the helplessness and anger over the hostages still held in Gaza. Their father, Yarden Bibas, is also still in captivity.

In a statement, the extended Bibas family said the videos “tear our hearts out.” They made a desperate plea for negotiations to release all of the hostages. In January, the family and hundreds of activists marked Kfir’s first birthday in what his family called “the saddest birthday party in the world.”

The Israel-Hamas war began when Hamas-led terrorists stormed into southern Israel from Gaza on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 250 men, women and children hostage.

After a round of exchanges for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel in November, around 130 remain captive, a fourth of them believed to be dead.

In Gaza, the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza said the death toll has risen to 29,092 since the start of the war. The ministry does not distinguish between civilians and combatants in its count.

Israel says it has killed over 10,000 Palestinian terrorists. The military says it tries to avoid harming civilians and blames the high death toll on Hamas because the terrorist group fights in dense residential neighborhoods. The military says 236 of its soldiers have been killed since the start of the ground offensive in late October.

The United States, Israel’s top ally, says it is still working with mediators Egypt and Qatar to try to broker another cease-fire and hostage release agreement. But those efforts appear to have stalled in recent days.

In an interview with Al-Jazeera, a senior official in Hamas, Khalil al-Haya, repeated the group’s demands for releasing the remaining hostages — an end to Israel’s assault, the withdrawal of its troops from Gaza and the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including top terrorists. He also said regional stability hinges on the establishment of a fully sovereign Palestinian state — though he did not specify what its borders should be.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected Hamas’ demands. In a speech before American Jewish leaders on Sunday, he said pressure should be applied on Qatar, which played a key role in mediating last year’s cease-fire and hostage release deal.

“Qatar can press Hamas as no one else can. They host Hamas leaders, Hamas is dependent on them financially,” Netanyahu said. “I urge you to press Qatar to press Hamas because we want our hostages released.”

Majed al-Ansari, Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesperson, dismissed Netanyahu’s remarks.

Qatar denies funding Hamas and says its provision of aid to Gaza in recent years was carried out in full coordination with Israel, the U.S. and other parties.

“The Israeli prime minister knows very well that Qatar has been committed from day one to mediation efforts, ending the crisis and freeing the hostages,” al-Ansari said.

The conflict has brought near daily exchanges of fire between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah terrorist group that frequently threaten to escalate.

Israeli warplanes on Monday carried out at least two strikes near the southern port city of Sidon in one of the largest attacks near a major city, wounding 14 people, Lebanese state media said. The Israeli military said it attacked Hezbollah arms depots near Sidon in retaliation for a drone that exploded in an open field near the northern Israeli city of Tiberias earlier Monday.

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