Hamas is beginning to release videos of hostages they kidnapped from Israel as part of a brutal attack on the country launched last week, when 199 people were taken captive and more than 1,300 were killed.
Women and children, including infants and toddlers, are believed to be among those Hamas took as hostages into the Gaza Strip during its attack Oct. 7.
A video released Monday shows a woman lying in a bed and receiving medical treatment. Her arm is being wrapped after what appears to be a recent surgery to stabilize what could be a broken bone.
In another shot, she is sitting up and facing the camera, explaining her name, age and that she was taken to Gaza from the southern Israeli city of Sderot after the Supernova music festival where Hamas killed more than 200 people.
“Hi, I’m Mia Schem, 21 years old from Shoham. Currently, I’m in Gaza,” she said, speaking in a composed manner.
“I returned early Saturday morning from the Sderot area; I was at a party. I was seriously injured in my hand. They took me to Gaza. They performed surgery on my hand here at the hospital for three hours.”
“They are taking care of me,” she continued. “They are treating me, giving me medicine, everything is fine. I only ask that they return me home as quickly as possible to my family, to my parents, to my siblings. Please, get us out of here as quickly as possible. Please.”
The New York Times reported it had confirmed the woman’s identity with her friend, who requested anonymity, and said her family had also seen the clip.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed that Schem was taken by Hamas and that they are in contact with her family.
Israel’s military said that in videos published by Hamas, “they try to portray themselves as humane. However, they are a horrific terrorist organization responsible for the murder and abduction of babies, children, men, women and the elderly. At this time, we are deploying all intelligence and operational measures for the return of all hostages — including Mia.”
Some American families also believe their loved ones are being held hostage in the Gaza Strip.
President Biden is heading to Israel and Amman, Jordan, on Wednesday, the White House announced, where securing the release of hostages is part of the agenda.
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Biden will talk with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Jordanian King Abdullah and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
“Obviously, he’ll continue to talk to them about the hostage situation, to try to glean whatever additional information there might be out there to include obviously, continuing to coordinate on our efforts to get Americans home and back with their families where they belong.”
The Biden administration has not confirmed a specific number of American hostages but has sent to Israel a special envoy for hostage negotiations. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also pressed for their release in meetings with regional leaders, including those that communicate with Hamas.
Abu Obaida, the spokesperson for Hamas’s military arm, made lengthy remarks Monday related to the hostages, saying that Hamas “will release individuals from various nationalities under temporary custody when the on-ground conditions permit it.”
Obaida said that the hostages are from different countries. “These individuals are considered our esteemed guests, and our primary goal is to ensure their safety,” he said.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry reportedly said Monday that Hamas stood ready to release hostages if Israel halted airstrikes on Gaza, but Hamas itself has made no such offer.
Iran is a military and financial backer of Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist group.
Hamas has claimed that it it initially took between 200 and 250 hostages, but that some of them were killed during Israel’s military response. A spokesperson for Israel’s military has refuted the claim that hostages held by Hamas have been killed.
Hamas has long treated taking hostages from Israel as valuable assets used during negotiations to secure concessions from the Israeli government. In 2011, Israel released more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners to secure the release of Israel soldier Gilad Shalit after five years of captivity.
The release of Palestinian prisoners for hostages is a deeply divisive issue in Israeli society, and at least two Israelis and the bodies of two other Israel soldiers have been in Hamas captivity since 2014.
The Israeli military said Monday that it had made contact with the 199 families whose loved ones are being held hostage.
IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said the military has some information on the whereabouts of hostages being held in Gaza, the Times of Israel reported.
“We are making valiant efforts to try to understand where the hostages are in Gaza, and we have such information,” Hagari said in response to a question at a press conference.
“We will not carry out an attack that would endanger our people,” he added.
Israel has said its airstrikes on Gaza are targeting Hamas’s military infrastructure and its leaders, but the Palestinian Ministry of Health in the Strip, which operates under Hamas, has said that more than 2,600 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more injured.
A more intensified Israeli and Egyptian blockade on the Strip in response to Hamas’s attack has led to a humanitarian catastrophe, with Palestinian health officials saying the health system has collapsed.
The Biden administration has said it stands behind Israel’s right to defend itself and is increasing pressure to allow the transfer of humanitarian assistance and the release of hostages.
Blinken visited Qatar and raised the issue of releasing the hostages. The country has ties with Hamas through the terrorist group’s political office in Doha.
Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani said Qatar is keeping open lines of communication with Hamas.
“As long as we are keeping the communication open right now and focusing on putting an end for this conflict … that’s what the main, our main focus is this,” he said.
“Actually, now our key focus for us in the state of Qatar, I believe the United States sharing with us this objective, is how to put an end for this conflict, how to de-escalate, how to create a humanitarian corridor, and how to get the hostages back safe.”
Sharon Udasin contributed.