More than a hundred people are being held captive in locations across the Gaza Strip after being abducted from Israel during an assault by Islamist militants over the weekend, a senior Hamas official told the al-Ghad news network, according to the Associated Press.
Mousa Abu Marzouk reportedly said that the number of hostages was in addition to the 30-or-so people taken by members of the Islamic Jihad militant group, which was also involved in the attacks.
Video footage appeared to show militants taking citizens in Israeli territory they had infiltrated in border regions near Gaza, including women, children and the elderly. Hamas officials demanded the release of all Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails in exchange for the prisoners, though analysts say they may have been taken to soften the military response by Israel on Hamas sites.
On Monday morning, the BBC reported four hostages had been killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, citing a Hamas spokesperson. Newsweek could not immediately verify this information.
Israeli officials have confirmed American citizens were among those taken captive, but gave no details of their identities or how many were from the U.S. Ron Dermer, Israel’s minister for strategic affairs, suggested many may have been dual Israeli-American citizens.
“Any American anywhere who is being detained or held hostage, that is going to be a priority for this government, this administration, and for me,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday. The same day, the Pentagon ordered the USS Gerald R. Ford carrier strike group into the Eastern Mediterranean.
“We can confirm that there are unaccounted-for U.S. citizens, and we are working with our Israeli partners to determine their whereabouts,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement to Newsweek.
Individuals from other countries are also thought to be among those taken by the militant groups. German tattoo artist Shani Louk was identified by her family as being the woman slumped in the back of a pick-up truck in widely-circulated footage from distinctive tattoos on her legs, after she had been attending a music festival in southern Israel.
It is unclear whether Louk is still alive, or whether she was alive when the video was taken.
Several others are thought to have been taken from the same festival in Kibbutz Re’im, from which 260 bodies have so far been recovered. The Israeli Embassy in the U.K. confirmed to multiple British outlets that Jake Marlowe, 26, who was working as a security guard at the event, and Dan Darlington, also originally from Britain, who had been visiting Israel from Germany, were missing.
Noa Argamani, 25, was also attending the festival with her boyfriend Avi Nathan. Argamani was seen being taken away from the festival on a motorbike while Nathan attempted to stop them.
The parents of Hersh Golberg-Polin, a 23-year-old American-Israeli, originally from Berkeley, California, told The Jerusalem Post that they believed their son to be missing after receiving two short text messages—”I love you” and “I’m sorry”—on Saturday morning, while at the festival.
A Mexican woman and man have “presumably” been taken hostage by Hamas militants, Alicia Barcena, Mexico’s foreign minister, announced on Sunday. CNN reported, citing Brazilian officials, that at least three Brazilian nationals were also missing.
Israeli media reports suggest that residents of communities near the Gaza border including Be’eri and Ofakim were being taken by militants who had infiltrated the settlements on Saturday. Footage geolocated by CNN to Be’eri appears to show multiple Israelis being taken hostage, the network said.
However, the full extent of those captured and where they were taken from remains unclear. Newsweek approached the Israeli government via email for comment on Monday.
On Saturday, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officials said there was fighting in 22 locations along the border. By Monday morning, the IDF said it had successfully retaken all territories previously held by Hamas militants, and that the defense minister, Yoav Gallant, had ordered a “complete siege” on the Gaza Strip.