Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, has accused Israel of killing a ten-month-old baby who was among the hostages taken by the group in October. The baby, identified as Yehuda Ben-David, was reportedly killed in an Israeli airstrike on a Hamas facility in Gaza on Thursday.
Hostage crisis and truce deal
Hamas had kidnapped four Israeli civilians and two soldiers on October 7, 2023, during a cross-border raid into Israel. The group demanded the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the hostages. Israel refused to negotiate with Hamas, and launched a series of airstrikes and ground operations to rescue the hostages and stop the rocket attacks from Gaza.
The hostage crisis sparked a wave of violence in the region, with both sides suffering casualties and damage. The international community and regional mediators tried to broker a ceasefire, but the talks were stalled by disagreements over the terms and conditions.
On November 29, 2023, Hamas and Israel announced a truce deal, mediated by Egypt and Qatar, that would end the hostilities and allow the exchange of hostages and prisoners. According to the deal, Israel would release 39 Palestinian prisoners, including some convicted of terrorism, and Hamas would release the six Israeli hostages. The deal also included a humanitarian package for Gaza, which would receive fuel, electricity, water, and medical supplies from Israel and other donors.
Airstrike and accusation
The truce deal was supposed to be implemented on Saturday, December 2, 2023, but it was delayed by a technical glitch on the Israeli side, according to Hamas. Israel said it needed more time to verify the identities and locations of the hostages, and to coordinate the logistics of the prisoner release.
On Thursday, December 1, 2023, Israel carried out an airstrike on a Hamas facility in Gaza, claiming it was a military target that posed a threat to its security. Hamas said the facility was a civilian site that housed some of the hostages, and accused Israel of violating the truce deal and killing the baby hostage.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement that Israel had committed a “barbaric crime” and a “war crime” against the innocent child, and warned that Israel would face “dire consequences” for its actions. He said Hamas would not release the remaining hostages until Israel fulfilled its obligations under the truce deal.
Israel denied the accusation, and said it had “no information” about the fate of the baby hostage. Israel’s military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said in a briefing that the airstrike was “precise and accurate”, and targeted a “Hamas weapons depot” that was used to store rockets and explosives. He said Israel had “no intention” of harming the hostages, and urged Hamas to “stop lying” and “release them immediately”.
Reactions and implications
The allegation of the baby’s death has sparked outrage and condemnation from Palestinians and their supporters, who have called for an investigation and accountability for Israel’s actions. They have also expressed doubt and distrust over the truce deal, and demanded that Israel release the Palestinian prisoners as soon as possible.
The claim has also raised concerns and questions from Israelis and their allies, who have asked for evidence and verification of the baby’s death. They have also expressed relief and hope over the truce deal, and urged Hamas to release the Israeli hostages as soon as possible.
The incident has complicated and endangered the implementation of the truce deal, which was seen as a rare opportunity to ease the tension and suffering in the region. Both sides have accused each other of breaching the deal, and have threatened to resume the hostilities if their demands are not met.
The fate of the baby hostage, and the other hostages and prisoners, remains uncertain and volatile, as the clock ticks for the truce deal to take effect.