Hamas Releases Video of Israeli Captive Strapped to Ventilator

These are the first images released by Hamas' military wing of Hisham al-Sayed, who crossed over into Gaza in 2015, amid stalled prisoner swap talks

Jack Khoury
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Hisham al-Sayed, as pictured in the video uploaded by Hamas on Tuesday.
Hisham al-Sayed, as pictured in the video uploaded by Hamas on Tuesday.
Jack Khoury

Hamas released video footage of captive Israeli man Hisham al-Sayed on Tuesday, showing him hooked up to a ventilator with his Israeli ID card beside him.

This is the first image released of al-Sayed since he entered the Gaza Strip seven years ago.

The video was released by Hamas' military wing, which called al-Sayed "a soldier in the occupation army." Although his father said that al-Sayed served in the Israeli military for a few months, he had been a civilian at the time he entered Gaza.

His father, Sha’aban al-Sayed, said that the man in the video is indeed his son. "This is the first time that I've seen his picture in seven years. He looks okay, he looks good. He may be ill with something, but he looks okay."

He added that he knows "every movement of his hand or eye or head," and that it seems to him that Hisham is following someone's instructions.

His son "has no hand or foot in any Israeli-Arab conflict, and they know that he is mentally ill. You cannot hold someone this sick captive," he said of Hamas.

Footage on the TV screen seen next to al-Sayed in the video shows an Al Jazeera report of the Qatar Economic Forum, which ended last Wednesday. It also shows a news ticker on South Korea's bid to host the 2023 Asian Cup, reported by outlets worldwide on Monday last week.

The move appeared to be a Hamas bid to pressure Israel for a prisoner swap as Egyptian-mediated negotiations between the sides on such a deal have lagged. The Lebanon-based Al Mayadeen channel, which is affiliated with Hezbollah, quoted Hamas sources as saying that the organization presented a humanitarian prisoner swap to intermediaries between it and Israel.

According to that report, Hamas offered to free the Israeli captive in return for releasing sick prisoners in Israeli jails. It also said that Hamas is prepared to cooperate with any international third party that would bring about the release of its sick prisoners in return for the sick Israeli "soldier."

Hamas announced on Monday that it would be releasing proof shortly that the health of one of the Israelis it is holding captive in Gaza has deteriorated. Abu Obeida, a spokesman for Hamas' armed wing, announced “a deterioration in the health of one of the enemy prisoners," without specifying whether it was al-Sayed or Avera Mengistu, another Israeli civilian in Hamas captivity. Hamas is also holding the bodies of two slain Israeli soldiers.

Al-Sayed, a Bedouin man who had been receiving psychiatric care for 10 years, crossed into Gaza in April 2015. According to his father, he had previously attempted to cross into Gaza twice, but was returned to Israel by Hamas. His father also said that he had a brief stint in the Israeli military, serving just a few months.

In response, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said that Israel sees Hamas as responsible for the condition of the captives "that it is holding in contravention to international law." Hamas' actions, he said, "is proof that this is a despicable terror organization that holds the civilians of Gaza hostage, who are paying the price for its actions."

He called on the international community, the International Red Crescent and global mental health organizations – as both of the living Israeli captives in Gaza have a history of mental illness – to condemn Hamas' "inhumane actions and to demand that it acts in accordance with international law and frees the civilians and the bodies that it holds."

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett condemned Hamas in a similar statement, adding that "releasing a video of a sick person is a despicable and desparate act." He added, "Hisham al-Sayed is not a soldier, but an Israeli civilian with a mental illness who crossed the Gaza border several times prior. Hamas is hindering any chance of a deal. Hamas' actions prove that this is a cynical and atrocious terror organization."

He continued, "The State of Israel will continue to put in every effort in order to return the IDF soldiers and Israeli civilians in Hamas captivity."

Last June, Al Jazeera released a recording that Israeli and foreign media outlets said might be the voice of Mengistu, a claim his mother rejected.

Hamas has demanded the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including people convicted in deadly attacks, in exchange for the captive Israelis. Israel says there can be no major moves toward lifting the blockade until the soldiers' remains and captive civilians are released.

The prime minister's office said Israel would continue working through Egyptian mediation to bring about the release of the captives.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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