Hamas video of Gaza captive Hersh Goldberg-Polin triggers Israel protests

The 23-year-old Israeli American criticises Israeli PM Netanyahu in the undated three-minute clip.

Hamas has released a video of an Israeli-American man held captive in the Gaza Strip for the duration of Israel’s war on the enclave, igniting new protests calling on the Israeli government to do more to secure the captives’ release.

The video issued on Wednesday by the Palestinian group was the first sign of life of Hersh Goldberg-Polin since October 7, when he was taken captive by Hamas-led fighters from the Tribe of Nova music festival in southern Israel.

Part of his left arm appeared to be missing. Witnesses said he lost it when attackers tossed grenades into a shelter where people had taken refuge. He had tied a tourniquet around it before being bundled into a truck by Hamas.

Although there was no date on the video, Goldberg-Polin appeared to reference the weeklong Jewish holiday of Passover, which began on Monday.

Qatar, one of the international mediators between Hamas and Israel to secure a ceasefire, passed the video on to the United States and Israel on Monday, two days before it was released by the group, according to sources familiar with the matter who were quoted by the US-based Axios news website.

Another source said US President Joe Biden’s administration had asked the Qatari government several times for assistance in getting proof of life for Goldberg-Polin and other American captives.

The issue, Axios reported, came up in phone calls between Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and senior White House officials.

Blaming Netanyahu

Reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith said the nearly three-minute video of Goldberg-Polin saw him openly criticising Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for “not doing enough, blames him for not getting the captives out”.

Goldberg-Polin also claimed that about 70 captives had been killed in Israel’s bombing campaign on Gaza.

“Remember, of course, when these videos are released, they are not speaking freely. They are being told what they can and cannot say by their captors,” Smith said.

According to the footage, Goldberg-Polin said he has been “underground” for about 200 days, so there is “no fixed time on the video”, Smith said, adding that it is the first video of its kind in about three months.

Israel protest
Friends and supporters of Hersh Goldberg-Polin protest in Jerusalem [Maya Alleruzzo/AP]

In response to the video, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, a group representing those held captive in Gaza and their families, said “time is running out” to ensure that all the captives are returned.

“With each passing day, the fear of losing more innocent lives grows stronger,” it said in a statement.

“All the hostages must be brought home – those alive to begin the process of rehabilitation, and those murdered for a dignified burial.

“This distressing video serves as an urgent call to take swift and decisive action to resolve this horrific humanitarian crisis and ensure the safe return of our loved ones.”

Protesters have taken to the streets in cities across Israel demanding that Netanyahu’s government do more to bring home the captives, and more recently for an end to the war in Gaza and new elections in Israel.

Hersh Goldberg-Polin mother
Rachel Goldberg, Hersh Goldberg-Polin’s mother, holds photos of her son at their home in Jerusalem [File: Ammar Awad/Reuters]

Goldberg-Polin is one of the most recognised Hamas captives. Posters with his image are pinned up across Israel. His mother, Rachel Goldberg, has met several world leaders and addressed the United Nations.

His parents said they were relieved to see him alive but were concerned about his health and wellbeing, as well as that of the other captives.

“We are here today with a plea to all of the leaders of the parties who have been negotiating to date,” said his father, Jon Polin, naming Egypt, Israel, Qatar, the US and Hamas.

“Be brave, lean in, seize this moment and get a deal done to reunite all of us with our loved ones and end the suffering in this region,” he said.

At least 34,262 Palestinians have been killed and 77,229 wounded in Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7. The death toll in Israel from Hamas’s October 7 attacks stands at 1,139, with dozens still held captive in Gaza.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies