Hamas, the Gaza-based Palestinian militant group, has captured an estimated 150 hostages, including children, members of the military, and the elderly. The hostages were brought back to Gaza from towns bordering the region. President Joe Biden revealed on October 10, 2023, that some of the hostages are Americans.
Hamas has threatened to kill a hostage every time Israel strikes a Gaza home without warning. The group intends to record the executions and make the recordings public. Hamas aims to force Israel to release imprisoned Palestinians through this hostage crisis.
By holding hostages in unknown locations throughout Gaza, Hamas seeks to prevent Israeli military strikes that could inadvertently harm Israeli citizens. The group also aims to generate support among its domestic and international supporters by showcasing its ability to harm a more powerful adversary.
Similar to the 1972 Munich Olympics hostage-taking by the Palestinian group Black September, Hamas aims to draw international attention to the plight of people living in blockaded and impoverished Gaza. However, taking innocent hostages, especially children and the elderly, is widely condemned worldwide.
Israel faces challenges in responding to terrorist groups taking their citizens hostage. Repression, including collective punishment, has been used in the past but has not produced the desired results. Another strategy, “decapitation,” involves capturing or killing terrorist group leaders, but locating them within Gaza’s extensive tunnel network poses challenges.
Negotiation has been a historical option, with prisoner-hostage swaps occurring in the past. However, negotiations are unlikely to take place during an active military confrontation.
The hostage crisis in Gaza is a significant international incident involving terrorism and has implications for the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.