The youngest hostage in Gaza – just 10-months-old – is feared to have been killed in an Israeli air strike alongside his family.
Terror group Hamas claimed baby Kfir Bibas, his four-year-old brother and their mother all died in an Israeli bombing raid before the six-day ceasefire – which was due to end last night. The baby boy and his family were kidnapped from their home in a southern Israeli kibbutz during Hamas’s initial attacks back on October 7.
Kfir’s plight has been widely publicised after Israel claimed the baby had been handed to another terror group in southern Gaza, where Jerusalem planned to attack next. But shortly before the final release of more women and children hostages yesterday, Hamas announced that Kfir had in fact been killed in an earlier Israeli bombing, along with his older brother, Ariel, and their mother Shiri Silberman-Bibas, 30.
The children’s father Yarden, 34, was also taken hostage but was not mentioned in the statement and his fate last night remained unknown. But if proven to be correct, the death is likely to cause further pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
However, there was also widespread suspicion over the announcement of the deaths by Hamas’ armed wing Al-Qassam Brigades, which provided no evidence of where or when the supposed strike may have occurred.
Last night a spokesman for the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said it was urgently investigating the claims. But the spokesman also branded Hamas ‘cruel and inhuman’, adding that Israeli authorities had spoken to the Bibas family about the claims, which were complicating last-minute negotiations to extend the expiring truce.
If the alleged deaths prove to be true, they will cause widespread despair in Israel, with hopes having been raised that little Kfir would be returned home safely.
The plight of the baby boy had become all the more poignant after horrifying footage emerged of Hamas terrorists dragging Shiri and her young family from their home in Nir Oz Kibbutz towards a waiting car.
Video showed the sobbing mother clutching onto her two redheaded sons as they were kidnapped, with horrified neighbours screaming: “She has a baby.”
The family has not been heard from since but there were hopes that they would be released by Hamas as part of a prisoner exchange during the truce between Israel and the terrorist group.
However, while many youngsters and their mothers have been returned in the last six days of truce, there has been no word of Kfir and his family.
And there was shock and anger yesterday when just hours before the ceasefire was due to end, Hamas said Kfir, Shiri and Ariel were all killed in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza in the days before the truce was announced.
If true, the deaths could provoke a devastating reaction from the Israeli military as the family were among the highest-profile civilian hostages still yet to be freed. Last night, an IDF spokesman confirmed that Israeli authorities had spoken to Kfir’s family about the claims.
“The terrorist organisation Hamas continues to act in a cruel and inhuman manner. IDF representatives spoke with the members of the Bibas family, informed them of the publication [of the claims] and are accompanying them at this time,” the spokesman said.
“The IDF is examining the reliability of the information. The responsibility for the safety of all the abductees in the Gaza Strip lies fully with the terrorist organisation Hamas.”
- Support fearless journalism
- Read The Daily Express online, advert free
- Get super-fast page loading
The military added: “Hamas endangers the abductees, including nine children. Hamas is required to immediately return them to Israel.
The IDF will continue to support the Bibas family as well as all the families of the abductees. “The IDF works with all means, intelligence and operational, in order to return the hostages home.”
Kfir’s family asked for privacy ‘at this difficult time’ as it waited for further information.
A spokesman said: “Our family has learned of Hamas’ latest claims. We are waiting for the information to be confirmed and hopefully refuted by military officials. We thank the people of Israel for their warm support, but kindly request privacy during this difficult time.”
With his red hair and toothless smile, Kfir’s harrowing ordeal has become for many a symbol of the brutality of Hamas’ attack on October 7, which saw the terrorists massacre 1,200 Israelis inside their homes or as they tried to flee a music festival.
Before Hamas’ statement yesterday, Kfir’s family had said the baby, who has now spent more than a fifth of his young life in captivity, his brother and parents were not on the list of hostages set to be released last night.
Yossi Schneider – Shiri’s cousin – said that Kfir and his family members were not included on Wednesday’s list, and accused Hamas of ‘passing him from hand to hand like an animal’.
His comments came after an IDF spokesman said Shiri, Ariel and Kfir were believed to have been handed off to Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) – a jihadist group that seeks to destroy Israel and has historically rejected any diplomatic engagement.
“It’s like our personal Schindler’s list,” Mr Schneider said. “Every day we wait to see who will return and who won’t. This is like the list that chooses who will live and who will die.” And he questioned why Hamas had taken the 10-month-old baby and the four-year-old child in the first place, questioning what value they had as ‘bargaining chips’.
“What were the Hamas terrorists exactly thinking of when they kidnapped them? What exactly were they afraid of? What did they think that Kfir could do to them?”
Source: Read Full Article