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US and 17 other nations demand Hamas release the hostages

People walk by photographs of civilians held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, posted in Tel Aviv. December 21, 2023. (Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Eighteen countries, including the United States, have demanded that the terrorist organization Hamas release the remaining 133 hostages. All of the countries have citizens who are currently being held captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

In addition to the U.S., the declaration was signed by Great Britain, Brazil, Denmark, Germany, Canada, Argentina, Austria, France, Poland, Colombia, Hungary, Thailand, Spain, Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia.

"We call for the immediate release of all hostages held by Hamas and Gaza now for over 200 days. They include our citizens," the world leaders said in a joint statement on Thursday.

"The fate of the hostages and the civilian population in Gaza, who are protected under international law, is of international concern."

The statement addressed recent reports of a proposal that ties the release of the remaining hostages to an increase in humanitarian aid to Gaza and the establishment of a ceasefire.

"Gazans would be able to return to their homes and their lands with preparations beforehand to ensure shelter and humanitarian provisions," the statement read.

 The Hostages and Families Forum expressed their gratitude for the joint statement by the 18 world leaders.

"We welcome the statement of the world leaders calling for the immediate release of all the hostages, and which puts their issue at the top of the world's priorities, and call on other leaders to join this call.”

On Wednesday, Hamas released a propaganda video of Hersh Goldberg-Polin, a 23-year-old dual U.S.-Israeli citizen who was kidnapped on Oct. 7 from the Nova Music Festival on Oct. 7. He appeared tired in the video and one of his hands was missing. Israel has previously blasted the terror group’s videos of hostages as psychological warfare. Israeli officials believe that Hamas uses videos like this to provoke the families of hostages to put pressure on the Israeli government to agree to Hamas' demands. 

Goldberg-Polin parents, Rachel and Jon, responded to the video on social media.

“Seeing the video of Hersh today is overwhelming. We are relieved to see him alive but we are also concerned about his health and wellbeing as well as that of all the other hostages and all of those suffering in this region,” they wrote on 𝕏.

“Hersh, we heard your voice today for the first time in 201 days and if you can hear us, we are telling you, we love you, stay strong, survive,” they urged their son.

Earlier this month, Rachel was named one of the 100 “Most Influential People” by TIME magazine for her advocacy work to raise global awareness of the hostages. 

According to reports, there have been recent tensions between Hamas leaders living in exile in Qatar and the Hamas leadership under Yahya Sinwar in the Gaza Strip. However, some pundits in Israel and the U.S. believe that a potential hostage deal largely depends on the decisions made by the Hamas leaders in Gaza, who are believed to be hiding in the terror militia’s underground tunnel network with the remaining hostages, likely in the southern town of Rafah in Gaza, near the Egyptian border.

An unnamed official argued that the current deal already meets most of Hamas’ demands.

"The core truth: There's a deal on the table. It meets nearly all of the demands that Hamas has had, including in key elements, one of which I just spoke with," the official said. "And what they need to do is release the vulnerable category of hostages to get things moving."

Officials in Israel, the U.S. and elsewhere fear that many of the remaining hostages in Gaza are no longer alive. Britain's Daily Mail recently claimed that only 40 of the remaining 133 hostages are alive. However, the Israeli intelligence agency Shin Bet quickly rejected the claim as incorrect.

“The publication in question is not true and does not represent the opinion of the Shin Bet,” the agency stated. “The numbers mentioned in the article are based on the writer’s opinion only and are not based on information from the Shin Bet.”

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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