Israel today said it is checking claims by Hamas that Kfir Bibas, a baby who was snatched and taken into Gaza by the terrorists, was killed in an Israeli airstrike alongside his mother and brother.
Hamas’ armed wing Al-Qassam Brigades claimed, without providing evidence, that the 10-month-old baby, his mother Shiri Silberman-Bibas, 30, and four-year-old brother Ariel, were killed in an Israeli bombardment before the truce was announced.
Kfir’s father Yarden, who was also taken hostage by the terrorists, was not mentioned in the statement.
The Israeli military said it is checking the claims by Hamas that the little baby was killed alongside his mother and brother while they were being kept hostage by the terrorists.
The IDF, which slammed Hamas as ‘cruel and inhuman’, said they have spoken to the Bibas family about the claims, which are massively overshadowing last-minute negotiations to extend the truce.
The world had watched in horror on October 7 when footage emerged of Hamas terrorists dragging Shiri and her young family from their home in Nir Oz Kibbutz towards a waiting car.
Video showed the sobbing mother clutching onto Kfir and Ariel as they were kidnapped, as horrified neighbours screamed: ‘She has a baby.’
The family had not been heard from since but there were hopes that they would be released by Hamas as part of a prisoner exchange during the truce between Israel and the terrorist group.
But Hamas today claimed – without providing evidence – that Kfir, Shiri and Ariel were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza in the days before the truce was announced. If it is true, that claim could provoke an explosive reaction from Israel as the family were among the highest-profile civilian hostages yet to be freed.
Hamas has claimed Kfir Bibas, a baby who was snatched and taken into Gaza by the terrorists, was killed in an Israeli airstrike alongside his mother and brother before the truce was announced six days ago
The Bibas family, father Yarden, mother Shiri, baby Kfir and four-year-old Ariel, were taken captive by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023 from Kibbutz Nir Oz
The image of the two young boys being carried by their weeping mother, Shiri, as they were marched from their homes was one of the most striking to be published in the early days of the Israel-Hamas war. It was hoped that they would be released tonight
Previously, there were fears that nine-year-old Israeli-Irish hostage Emily Hand had been killed by Hamas terrorists but she was later found to be alive. The schoolgirl, who spent her ninth birthday in captivity, has since been released.
The Israeli military said in a statement that they had spoken to Kfir’s family about the claims, before condemning Hamas for their ‘cruelty’ and ‘inhumanity’.
The IDF said: ‘The terrorist organisation Hamas continues to act in a cruel and inhuman manner. IDF representatives spoke with the members of the Bibas family, informed them of the publication [of the claims] and are accompanying them at this time.
‘The IDF is examining the reliability of the information. The responsibility for the safety of all the abductees in the Gaza Strip lies fully with the terrorist organisation Hamas.’
The military added: ‘Hamas endangers the abductees, including nine children. Hamas is required to immediately return them to Israel. The IDF will continue to support the Bibas family as well as all the families of the abductees.
‘The IDF works with all means, intelligence and operational, in order to return the hostages home.’
With his red hair and toothless smile, Kfir’s harrowing ordeal has become for many a symbol of the brutality of Hamas’ attack on October 7, which saw the terrorists massacre 1,200 Israelis inside their homes or as they tried to flee a music festival.
Earlier today, Kfir’s family had said the baby, who has now spent more than a fifth of his young life in captivity, his brother and parents were not on the list of hostages set to be released later tonight.
Yossi Schneider – Shiri’s cousin – told Israel’s Morning News that Kfir and his family members were not included on Wednesday’s list, and accused Hamas of ‘passing him from hand to hand like an animal’.
His comments came after an IDF spokesperson said Shiri, Ariel and Kfir are believed to have been handed off to Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) – a jihadist group that seeks to destroy Israel and has historically rejected any diplomatic engagement.
‘It’s like our personal Schindler’s list,’ Schneider said. ‘Every day we wait to see who will return and who won’t. This is like the list that chooses who will live and who will die.’
He questioned why Hamas had taken the 10-month-old baby and the four-year-old child in the first place, questioning what value they had as ‘bargaining chips’.
‘What were the Hamas terrorists exactly thinking of when they kidnapped them? What exactly were they afraid of? What did they think that Kfir could do to them?
‘They are passing him from hand to hand like an animal. I don’t understand it.’
‘There is no precedent for something like this, for a baby who was kidnapped when he was 9 months old,’ Eylon Keshet, Kfir’s father’s cousin, told reporters on Tuesday. ‘Is baby Kfir the enemy of Hamas?’
Kfir’s family, like other relatives of captives, have been tormented since October 7. They have received no sign that he is still alive and wonder how such a helpless infant can cope with being in captivity for so long.
Hamas’ armed wing Al-Qassam Brigades claimed, without providing evidence, that the 10-month-old baby, his mother Shiri Silberman-Bibas, 30, and four-year-old brother Ariel (pictured), were killed in an Israeli bombardment before the truce was announced
Shiri Silberman-Bibas, 30, is pictured here with her two young sons
Schneider said waiting for news was ‘unbearable’.
‘The days are very long and we just wait for the list to come out today once again we have been left disappointed,’ he said, explaining that the family had learned that the young hostages had been passed on by Hamas to another terror group.
He said: ‘They have been sold like some kind of pet. What sort of people are they using a 10 month old baby boy as an asset?
‘They’re using him like a chess piece or a Monopoly card.
‘The world needs to wake up and understand what’s happening. This [Hamas] is an evil organisation. Obviously, I’m happy for those who are coming out but we need our family back together.
‘Hamas are playing with people’s lives. They’re not playing by the rules.
‘We haven’t seen our family for 55 days. Kfir hasn’t seen the light for 55 days. It’s crazy. We’ve heard from the hostages who have come back that they don’t have any food, they have lice, they are not able to take a shower. An adult could just about cope with this but can a child? Can a ten month old baby? I don’t think so.’
On October 7, Shiri and her husband Yarden, who was armed only with a pistol, had frantically sprinted to their safe room with their two young children as soon as they heard the gunmen trying to smash down their front door.
Yarden had texted relatives ‘I love you all’ as they sheltered, with militants firing semi-automatic weapons outside their window, according to reports. Half an hour later, he ominously wrote ‘they’re coming in’, before communication ceased. The family has not been heard from since.
Their family had hoped the family would be released during the truce, which is scheduled to expire on Thursday morning.
So far 89 captives have been released and another ten are due to be freed on Wednesday night ahead of end of the temporary truce at 7am tomorrow.
Hamas terrorists still hold at least eight children as hostages in Gaza as the ceasefire enters its final day, as Qatari mediators said they were working for a ‘sustainable ceasefire’.
Palestinians inspect the destruction caused by Israeli strikes in Wadi Gaza, in the central Gaza Strip on November 28
Two hostages are flanked by Hamas terrorists as they are released to members of the Red Cross on Tuesday night
An Israeli hostage is flanked by Hamas gunmen as she is handed over to members of the Red Cross in Rafah, Gaza, on Tuesday night
Mia, 17, was filmed clutching her pet dog Bella as she was flanked by Hamas fighters during the exchange on Tuesday night
Meanwhile, Hamas said today they are willing to extend a truce for four more days which would give them time to locate and free more Israeli hostages held by other terror groups.
If Israel agrees to this, Hamas ‘would be able to release Israeli prisoners that it, other resistance movements and other parties hold during this period, according to the terms of the truce,’ the source added.
Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesman Majed Al Ansari told a Doha news conference on Tuesday that negotiators were seeking ‘a sustainable truce that will lead to further negotiations and eventually to an end… to this war.’
Families of Israeli hostages were informed on Wednesday of the names of those due to be released later in the day, Israel’s public broadcaster Kan reported, the final group to be freed under the truce unless negotiators succeed in extending it.
Officials did not say at the time whether that included the Bibas family.
A Palestinian official told Reuters that despite a willingness on both sides to prolong the truce, no agreement had yet been reached on whether to extend the truce. Discussions were still under way with mediators Egypt and Qatar, the official said.
Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy said Israel would consider any serious proposal, though he declined to provide further details.
‘We are doing everything we can in order to get those hostages out. Nothing is confirmed until it is confirmed,’ Levy told reporters in Tel Aviv. ‘We’re talking about very sensitive negotiations in which human lives hang in the balance.’
Once the release of hostages ends, the fighting will resume, he said: ‘This war will end with the end of Hamas.’
Last night, a new group of 12 Israeli and foreign hostages was freed from Gaza, with 30 Palestinians released by Israel.
The Israelis in the group were named as 36-year-old Rimon Kirsht, whose husband remains a hostage, Gabriela Leimberg, 59, and her daughter Mia, 17, who was filmed clutching her pet dog Bella as she was flanked by Hamas fighters.
The group also includes Mia’s aunt Clara Merman, 63, Argentina-born Ofelia Roitman, 77, Ditza Herman, 84, Tamar Metzger, 78, Merav Tal, 53, Philippines-born Noralin Babdilla, 60, and Ada Sagi, 75, whose British son Noam has been campaigning in Israel and London for her release.
The fifth group of hostages is also said to include two foreign nationals, who Israel says are from Thailand but have not yet been named, bringing the number of hostages freed overnight to 12.
Pictures show the captives being escorted by balaclava-clad Hamas terrorists inside Gaza as they prepared to hand them over to the Red Cross and Israel, with crowds gathered around filming and jeering.
Israel in return released 30 Palestinian prisoners from detention centres in the West Bank and Jerusalem as per the terms of the agreement.
Now, officials are working to extend the ceasefire, with mediator Qatar signalling it was hoping for a more durable arrangement.
‘Our main focus right now, and our hope, is to reach a sustainable truce that will lead to further negotiations and eventually to an end… to this war,’ foreign ministry spokesman Majed Al Ansari told a Doha news conference.
‘However, we are working with what we have. And what we have right now is the provision to the agreement that allows us to extend days as long as Hamas is able to guarantee the release of at least 10 hostages.’
The initial four-day truce was extended by 48 hours from Tuesday, and Israel says it would be willing to prolong it further for as long as Hamas frees 10 hostages a day. But with fewer women and children still in captivity, that could mean agreeing to terms governing the release of at least some Israeli men for the first time.
Tuesday’s release also included for the first time hostages held by Islamic Jihad, a separate militant group, as well as by Hamas itself. The ability of Hamas to secure the release of hostages held by other factions had been an issue in earlier talks.
The truce has brought the first respite to a war launched by Israel to annihilate Hamas after the ‘Black Shabbat’ raid by gunmen who killed 1,200 people on the Jewish rest day, according to Israel’s tally.
Israeli bombardment has since reduced much of Gaza to a wasteland, with more than 15,000 people confirmed killed, 40% of them children, according to Palestinian health authorities deemed reliable by the United Nations.
Many more are feared buried under the ruins. The Palestinian health ministry said another 160 bodies had been pulled out of rubble during the past 24 hours of the truce, and around 6,500 people were still missing.