Hamas videos are ‘psychological warfare’, says mother of hostage killed

Hamas released a video on 15 January, showing two hostages who it claimed were killed by Israeli air strikes. Iris Haim, the mother of Yotam Haim, who was killed by friendly fire on 15 December, said the video was part of a “psychological warfare” campaign by Hamas.

A video released by Hamas on 15 January, showing what it claimed to be the corpses of two Israeli hostages, was part of a “psychological warfare” campaign, according to the mother of another hostage who was killed by friendly fire in Gaza.

Iris Haim, whose son Yotam was one of the three Israeli captives who died on 15 December when an Israeli sniper mistakenly shot them, spoke to colleagues of BBC News about the ordeal of seeing the videos of the hostages, some of whom appeared to be dead.

She said that Hamas was trying to “make us weak” by turning the Israeli public opinion against their own government, which has been engaged in a fierce military confrontation with the militant group since 7 October.

On that day, Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel, killing about 1,300 people, mostly civilians, and capturing around 240 Israelis. Israel responded with a massive aerial and ground assault on Gaza, which has killed more than 24,000 Gazans, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. Israel says it has killed over 9,000 Hamas fighters.

The video released by Hamas on 15 January purported to show the bodies of Yossi Sharabi and Itay Svirsky, two of the hostages who were captured on 7 October. Hamas said they were killed by Israeli air strikes, but Israeli forensic officials have disputed this claim, saying that post-mortems on the bodies of other hostages who died in similar circumstances did not support the Hamas version.

The video also featured a third hostage, Noa Argamani, who narrated the footage and pleaded for her release. Her fate remains unknown.

Iris Haim said she was shocked and saddened by the video, but she did not believe that the hostages were dead. She said she had faith in the Israeli authorities, who have been working to secure the release of the remaining hostages. About half of them were freed in November, in exchange for humanitarian aid to Gaza.

She said she blamed Hamas for the death of her son and the suffering of the hostages and their families. “Hamas, just Hamas. Hamas is in charge of all of this,” she said.

Yotam Haim was captured along with Alon Shamriz and Samer Talalka on 7 October, when they were travelling in a car near the Gaza border. They managed to escape from their captors and hide in an empty building near the Israeli army positions. They used food to write a message on a sheet, saying “SOS” and “Help, 3 Hostages”, and tried to signal the soldiers.

“He and his friends were leaving captivity,” Iris Haim said proudly.

However, the Israeli soldiers did not enter the building, fearing a Hamas trap. Later, the hostages came out of the building, shirtless and waving a white flag made from a sheet. But an Israeli sniper, who thought they were Hamas fighters, opened fire on them. Yotam was wounded, while Alon and Samer were killed instantly.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that a command was given to stop shooting and Yotam was told to come forward. But one of the soldiers did not hear the order because of the noise from a nearby tank, and shot Yotam again, killing him. The IDF launched an official investigation into the incident and said it was a tragic mistake.

Iris Haim said she was devastated by the news of her son’s death, especially because she had heard from the authorities that he was alive and well a week before. She said she did not blame the soldiers who killed him, and even recorded a message for them, saying she forgave them.

“What happened, happened … we have enough suffering here,” she said, tearfully. “These soldiers also have families and mothers. I was also worried for them.”

She said she did not feel angry at the Israeli forces, because they were trying to protect the country. “We felt that we cannot be angry, because they were Israeli forces,” she added.

Her attitude contrasted with that of Alon Shamriz’s family, who accused the Israeli government of abandoning and killing their son. At his funeral, his brother Ido said: “The one who abandoned you also murdered you.”

Iris Haim said she hoped that the remaining hostages would be freed soon, and that the conflict would end peacefully. She said she feared that “time is running out” for the hostages, who have been held by Hamas for more than three months. She said she prayed for their safety and well-being.

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