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Anguished Video of American Hostage in Gaza Demands Israeli Government Action



A harrowing new video of American hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin was released Wednesday by Hamas’ military wing, delivering an anguished message to the Israeli government as his captivity in Gaza stretches into its 200th day. 

The 23-year-old Israeli American, whose left arm appears severed below the elbow, speaks angrily in Hebrew while demanding the release of hostages still being held by Hamas forces amid the bloody war that has raged in Gaza since last October.

“I expect and hope to see you very soon after all this tragedy is over,” Goldberg-Polin tells his parents in the disturbing 2 minute, 43 second video before its abrupt conclusion.

Dire Conditions and Uncertainty

While the exact date the video was recorded remains unclear, as do the conditions under which the young man spoke as a Hamas captive, its contents paint a dire picture of the hostages’ predicament. Goldberg-Polin references spending 200 days in captivity as well as a recent holiday, likely referring to Passover which was celebrated earlier this week.

He also claims that 70 detainees have been killed by Israeli airstrikes, a staggering figure that could not be independently verified. Israeli officials have previously estimated around 130 hostages remain in Gaza, with 30 believed to be dead.  

The video’s release comes as negotiations between Israel and Hamas have sputtered for months toward a potential ceasefire and hostage release deal for the six American citizens among the captives.

In it, Goldberg-Polin rebukes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying “the government should think of the hostages whom he described as living underground and in need of medical attention.”

A Brutal Capture

The young Americans plight first came into view on October 7th, when he was among 250 people taken captive by Hamas forces during the chaotic violence at the Supernova music festival attack near Kibbutz Re’im that sparked the war. 

Footage from that day showed Goldberg-Polin injured by a grenade blast, with what appeared to be his left arm severed, before being loaded into a truck by militants as the attack unfolded. Over 1,200 were killed in the multipronged Hamas offensive.

In an interview earlier this month, his mother Rachel Goldberg-Polin recounted how her son had texted “I love you” and “I’m sorry” after the assault began, before being taken hostage. She said he had been sheltering in a bunker with others when militants launched grenades and gunfire inside, killing many.

A Desperate Plea

For the Goldberg-Polin family, the disturbing new video serves as a desperate plea for action after months of anguish over their son’s unknown fate.

“Hersh’s cry is the collective cry of all the hostages — their time is rapidly running out. With each passing day, the fear of losing more innocent lives grows stronger,” the family said in a statement responding to the footage.

“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.”

The U.S. government also confirmed receiving the video on Monday, with the FBI’s Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell examining it closely for any hints about Goldberg-Polin’s captivity and well-being.

A Shared Humanity

Through her advocacy efforts for her son’s release, Rachel Goldberg-Polin has been an outspoken voice demanding the Israeli government compromise to halt the suffering the war has wrought on both sides.

“I’m happy that I’m upset when I see that the other side is also in pain, that I’m not celebrating their pain because that would mean that I’m not human anymore,” she told NBC News.  

The anguished mother said she hopes there may be a Palestinian mother in Gaza similar to herself, trying to help her own son being held hostage. She sees the suffering of captives like her son, and of Palestinian civilians in Gaza where over 34,000 have been killed, as innocent people paying the price.

“I’m hoping that there’s a mother like me in Gaza that doesn’t want her son or any son to have to kill or be killed for nothing,” she said. “I hope that the Palestinian mothers are trying to save their children as I’m trying to save my child.”

A Cruel Psychological Tactic

Israeli officials have denounced videos like the one of Goldberg-Polin as a form of psychological warfare employed by Hamas. The footage is likely intended to ramp up public pressure on the government over the hostage crisis while angering Israeli citizens over the apparent mistreatment of the captives.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, an Israeli lawyer who has worked on captive cases, told NBC News that Hamas has derived “a huge benefit of holding these soldiers and Israeli civilians…It’s a huge psychological warfare tool against Israel.”

The disturbing scenes depicted in the Goldberg-Polin video seem calibrated to maximize that psychological impact by showing him wounded and in clear distress. His impassioned plea to the government is a heart-wrenching display intended to foment public outrage.

An Impasse With Dire Consequences

After 200 days of captivity, the physical and psychological toll on the hostages like Goldberg-Polin being held in Gaza is doubtlessly staggering and worsening by the day.  

Becca Stevens, a crisis counselor, explained that such traumatic events can “shatter one’s sense of security and feelings of safety” inflicting immense psychological harm ranging from anxiety and depression to PTSD and substance abuse issues, especially among young people.

Yet a resolution to this humanitarian crisis remains elusive as the war grinds on with negotiations at an impasse. The consequences of that stalemate are made viscerally clear in the video’s anguished moments.

As Stevens notes, “Young people’s lives depend” on the committed pursuit of creating lasting change. For the hostages still being held, that change cannot come soon enough before more innocent lives are lost to this brutal conflict.

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