Fears grow Israel won’t be able to rescue hostages as it prioritises attacks on Hamas

Fears are growing that Israel will not be able to rescue more than 100 hostages that are being held by Hamas, including soldiers, children and elderly civilians.

Yoni Ben Menachem, a security analyst with close ties to the Israeli military, said a full-scale rescue operation is likely to be impossible because of a lack of security intelligence.

“We don’t have a military option now to release the hostages because we don’t have the intelligence we would need for it,” he told i, adding that the hostages are probably being held in underground strongholds.

Hamas is known to have developed an extensive network of reinforced tunnels underneath the Gaza strip to evade Israeli airstrikes.

Mr Ben Menachem said that the presence of hostages in Gaza was a “big complication” for Israel’s assault on the strip and that Israel would be prioritising inflicting damage on Hamas through air strikes.

“First the army will want to show some achievements on the ground and then they would negotiate about the hostages from a position of strength,” said Mr Ben Menachem.

It came as Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of a “prolonged campaign” of strikes and said that Hamas was “responsible for the well-being of the hostages”.

Shocking videos filmed in Gaza over the weekend showed terrified Israeli civillians and soldiers, some of them bloodied and with their hands bound, being taken away by Hamas.

Dozens of families are searching for information about their missing loved ones, with some accusing the Israeli government of abandoning them and providing them with limited information.

“I have been looking for my daughter for 27 hours and nobody is helping us,” Alin Atias, the mother of a missing woman named Amit Buskila, told Israel’s Channel 12 News.

“Benjamin Netanyahu, I am begging you, send helicopters. Find her, I beg you, please,” she said.

Israelis also shared details of lost relatives on social media. “Our beloved mother, 84-year-old Dietza Hyman, is missing,” one posted on X, formerly Twitter. “We are helpless and torn with worry.”

Jake Marlowe was working at a festival in the desert near Kibbutz Re’im on Saturday, just miles from the border with the Gaza Strip (Photo: Facebook)

A woman named Noa Argamani is also among the missing. She was seen in footage shared online screaming ‘don’t kill me! No, no, no’ as she was forced onto the back of a motorcycle and her boyfriend was held at gunpoint.

Grandmother Yaffa Adar was last seen in footage being driven in a golf cart accompanied by heavily armed Hamas terrorists.

Her granddaughter Adva Adar pleaded for help for help in finding her in a Facebook post, saying: “This is my grandmother, she was captured and taken to Gaza. Her name is Yaffa Adar and she is 85!”

She also told how she is frustrated she is getting no information from the government and said that more should be done to return the Israeli hostages.

German tourist Shani Louk is also missing, according to her mother Ricarda.

Appealing for help in finding her daughter, her mother said: “We were sent a video in which I could clearly see our daughter unconscious in the car with the Palestinians and them driving around the Gaza Strip. I ask you to send us any help or news. Thank you very much.”

Other missing Israeli’s include Ohad Ben Ami, Roi Mundar, Noam Elyakim, Dafna Elyakim, Ella Elyakim, Dikla Arava and Dikla Arava.

One of the missing is British citizen Jake Marlowe, who was at a music festival in southern Israel. His family said they have been unable to reach him since the event.

Tzipi Hotovely, Israel’s ambassador to the UK, said the total figure of captives was “over 100.”

A spokesperson for the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said it was building a “situational picture” for the hostages and that families were being given updates.

Smoke rises following Israeli strikes in Gaza, October 8, 2023. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
Israel’s bombing campaign against Hamas targets in Gaza continued on Sunday (Photo: Reuters)

Captives were seized at multiple locations during the surprise Hamas operation that began on Saturday morning, including from communes and towns close to the Gaza border.

Some hostages reported being kept captive in their homes for up to 18 hours by gunmen as they engaged in shootouts with Israeli soldiers. Others were killed in their homes.

Israel has historically been prepared to pay a high price to recover hostages, releasing more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for captured soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011.

The Jewish state has also staged audacious operations to free hostages such as “Operation Thunderbolt” to free captives held by Palestinian militants at Entebbe Airport in Uganda in 1976.

Taking hostages would likely have been a high priority for Hamas given the sensitivity of the issue in Israel, said Dr Yossi Mekelberg, a Middle East analyst at Chatham House.

“Israel has always been willing to pay almost any price to bring them back and made itself vulnerable as a result,” he said.

But the scale of the bloodshed in Israel has “changed the rules of the game forever” and the military will now have to take “tough decisions” concerning the fate of the captives, Dr Mekelberg added.

“The first priority will be to hurt Hamas as much as possible,” he told i.