Seventy Israeli hostages have been killed, says captive

Rachel Goldberg, center, mother of American hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin, along with other families of hostages
Rachel Goldberg, centre, mother of American hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin, along with other families of hostages - Rachel Goldberg/AP

Around half of the remaining Israeli hostages abducted by Hamas have been killed in Gaza, an Israeli-American captive said in a rare proof-of-life video.

Hamas released a two-minute video on Wednesday night showing 24-year-old Hersch Goldberg-Polin appealing to the Israeli government to bring him home.

Ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas that would have included a hostage swap and pause in fighting have collapsed.

The video was released as Israel is preparing to move Palestinian civilians out of Rafah ahead of a major offensive. Hamas has warned that an attack would risk the lives of more hostages.

Israel's promised assault on Rafah has raised fears for the safety of its remaining hostages - MOHAMMED ABED/AFP via Getty Images

Mr Goldberg-Polin, born in California, was kidnapped from the Supernova festival, where he lost an arm in a grenade attack.

The video was likely made under duress, and Mr Goldberg-Polin appeared sickly, pale and thin as he read at least part of his statement from a teleprompter.

It was not clear when the video was recorded but it appears to have been very recent as Mr Goldberg-Polin spoke about 200 days of captivity, which he would have marked earlier this week, and the festival of Passover, which began on Monday evening. He spoke about living in “underground hell without water, food, sun or medical treatment”.

He said at least 70 of the remaining 130 or so hostages had been killed in Gaza in Israeli bombings, likely repeating a line given to him by his captors. Official Israeli estimates have put the number closer to 35.

A White House spokesman confirmed it had received the video, the first Hamas has publicly released of a US hostage.

An official said the FBI and hostage rescue experts have been analysing the footage to ascertain if they can glean anything from it.

Mr Goldberg-Polin, whose family has been one of the most active advocates of a hostage deal with Hamas, said Benjamin Netanyahu and his government “should be ashamed of themselves” for not stopping the war in Gaza.

Mr Goldberg-Polin told his parents in the video “I love you and I miss you so much” and wished them a happy Passover.

His family have mounted a campaign pushing for his release, with posters showing him smiling and displaying the slogan “Bring Hersch home” often seen on the walls of Israeli towns.

His family did not have an immediate comment but said it would release a statement later.

Posters of Israeli hostages in the aftermath of the October 7 attack
Posters of Israeli hostages in the aftermath of the October 7 attack. Fears are growing over how few may still be alive - AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP

A group representing the families of some of the hostages said on Wednesday that the family had agreed for the media to use the video which they said underlined their son’s plight.

“Hersh’s cry is the collective cry of all the hostages – their time is rapidly running out,” the group said.

“We cannot afford to waste any more time; the hostages must be the top priority.”

Hamas has repeatedly said that it is not aware of the whereabouts of all 133 hostages who are currently in captivity in Gaza as some of them were abducted by Palestinian civilians rather than Hamas fighters.

In recent ceasefire negotiations, Hamas refused to share a list of all living hostages with Israel, raising fears there are fewer survivors than previously thought.

Earlier on Wednesday, Israel’s army chief Herzl Halevi and Shin Bet head Ronen Bar went to Cairo to discuss with Egyptian intelligence officers Israel’s plans for a Rafah operation, as well as efforts to reach a hostage deal with Hamas.

The US and the West has clashed with Israel over its Rafah plans, and has also been pressuring the Israeli government over illegal settlements

The US State Department on Wednesday described as “dangerous and reckless” reports that Bezalel Smotrich, the Israeli finance minister, was pushing to legalise dozens of settler outposts in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.