An Israeli hostage imprisoned in Gaza has been killed, according to his kibbutz community, after Hamas claimed he died in a failed rescue attempt.
Sahar Baruch, 25, is the most recent reported casualty among hundreds of Israelis and tourists abducted by Hamas during its October 7 attacks in southern Israel.
“It is with deep sorrow and a broken heart that we announce the murder of Sahar Baruch,” declared Kibbutz Be’eri and the Israeli Hostages and Missing Families Forum in a joint statement.
The announcement came after the Israeli military revealed that two special forces soldiers were badly injured in a failed hostage rescue operation on Friday night.
“During the operation, numerous terrorists who took part in the abducting and holding of hostages were killed,” according to the statement. “No hostages were rescued in this activity.”
The Al-Qassam brigades of Hamas claimed to have foiled the attempted prisoner rescue, claiming that a battle resulted in the death of one Israeli hostage.
“A fierce gunfight erupted between Al-Qassam fighters and Israeli special forces, injuring many soldiers while the captive Israeli… was declared dead,” Hamas said in an English-language statement.
(The latest confirmed fatality among hundreds of Israelis and tourists seized by Hamas on October 7 – Times of Israel)
The fighter group released a two-minute video of Baruch speaking on camera while being held captive. The camera then pans to him laying still on the floor, most likely dead, with bloodstains on his face.
The footage also appears to show Hamas stealing Israeli body armour jackets and other equipment. The Telegraph was unable to verify its accuracy.
The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) did not confirm or deny Hamas’ statement.
“We are not going to comment on the psychological warfare that Hamas continues to wage against the people of Israel,” an Israeli government spokeswoman, Eylon Levy, stated when questioned about the failed raid.
“We hold Hamas fully responsible for the safety and wellbeing of these hostages,” he said in a statement.
One of the settlements attacked by Hamas in its first October offensive, Kibbutz Be’eri, stated, “We will demand the return of Sahar’s body as part of any hostage exchange agreement.”
Tensions are rising between captive families and Israel’s government, which has been accused of putting Hamas devastation ahead of detainee release.
According to Ms Ben-Ami’s sister, Ayelet Hakim, Raz Ben-Ami, 57, who was kidnapped and released under the truce, was so furious by the lack of action to rescue her husband, Ohad, who remains in prison, that she walked out in the middle of a meeting.
“It completely changed my sister,” said Ms Hakim, a Kibbutz Be’eri resident. “All she wants now is to see her husband again.”
“When she first appeared, the first thing she said was, ‘Now we’re going to bring Ohad back.'” She’s been doing this ever since.
The hard fighting commences.
In the midst of intense fighting that stretched the length of the enclave, Israel urged residents of six areas in the southern Gazan city of Khan Younis to escape “immediately.”
On Twitter, Israel’s Arabic-language spokeswoman provided a map defining six numbered blocks of the city, including areas of the city core that had previously been exempt from such restrictions.
Relief organisations have emphasised that there is no secure spot in Gaza, and that even the safe zones are being bombed, with food and other humanitarian aid delivery nearly completely cut off.
On two sides, Israeli tanks surround Gaza’s second city, Khan Younis. The Israeli military says it is battling house to house and “shaft to shaft” through Hamas’s tunnel network territory.
On Saturday, Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis vowed that they will attack all ships going for Israel, regardless of nationality, and warned all global maritime corporations from doing business with Israeli ports.
The Houthis have attacked and taken possession of many Israeli-linked ships in the Red Sea and its Bab al-Mandab strait, a maritime corridor through which much of the world’s oil is transported, as well as fired ballistic missiles and armed drones at Israel.