SPECIAL BRIEFING DAY 203: UK alongside 17 other countries call for the release of the hostages

By April 26 2024, 19:14 Latest News No Comments

Note to reader: We wanted to give you a trigger warning on what you may read below. We have chosen, as with every one of these briefings, to not share horrific images, however we want to alert you as sensitively as we can to the reports coming out of Israel and Gaza.

UK alongside 17 other countries call for the release of the hostages

The UK Government alongside 17 other countries including the U.S., France, Germany and Canada, called for “the release of the hostages held in Gaza” in a joint statement on Thursday.

The statement appeals for “the immediate release of all hostages held by Hamas in Gaza for over 200 days”, which includes the citizens of each signatory.

“We emphasise that the deal on the table to release the hostages would bring an immediate and prolonged ceasefire in Gaza, that would facilitate a surge of additional necessary humanitarian assistance to be delivered throughout Gaza, and lead to the credible end of hostilities”.

“We strongly support the ongoing mediation efforts in order to bring our people home”, they add.

“We reiterate our call on Hamas to release the hostages, and let us end this crisis so that collectively we can focus our efforts on bringing peace and stability to the region”.

In a statement on X, Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron called for Hamas to “send the hostages home and bring to an end the horrific ordeal of those currently being held and their loved ones”.

The Hostages and Families Forum welcomed the statement “calling for the immediate release of all the hostages, and which puts their issue at the top of the world’s priorities”. They called for more world leaders to add their names to their plea.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has hostages in his thoughts this Passover

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak shared a Passover message with the Jewish community in the UK and worldwide on Monday acknowledging that “for too many families, there will be empty seats”.

“My thoughts are with those who lost loved ones on the 7th of October, and those who continue to be held hostage”, the Prime Minister stated.

He vowed to “continue to stand with Israel against the kind of reckless attack that we saw earlier this month from Iran”.

Noting that “the promise of Passover is that better times lie ahead”, he shared his hopes that “this holiday brings some comfort and a reminder of that promise of a better tomorrow”.

New sanctions on Iran’s drone industry announced

The UK, together with the U.S. and Canada announced further sanctions against Iran, targeting their drone industry and military activity.

The sanctions, announced on Thursday, are in response to “the regime’s attack on Israel on 13 April in which over 300 drones and missiles were fired at Israel”.

Following a set of sanctions against Iran which came into effect on 18 April, these new measures sanction an additional four companies and two individuals “closely involved in Iran’s network of drone production”.

The two individuals, Seyed Mohsen Vahabzadeh Moghadam and Abbas Abdi Asjerd, are both directors of “a network of Iranian companies involved in producing drones”, with connections to Abdollah Mehrabi, Head of the IRGC Aerospace Force SSJO.

The Government also announced plans to broaden trade sanctions “introducing new bans on the export of components used in drone and missile production to Iran”. These sanctions aim to “deny Iran access to the components it needs to develop these weapons, limiting its military capabilities”.

In a statement, Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron said that “the Iranian regime’s dangerous attack on Israel risked thousands of civilian casualties and wider escalation in the region”. Due to this, the UK alongside its partners “have sent a clear message: We will hold those responsible for Iran’s destabilising behaviour to account”.

Introducing the sanctions on X, the Foreign Secretary highlighted how “Iran is using drones to threaten Israel’s security and increase tensions across the Middle East”. The sanctions are “hitting them where it hurts”, he added.

Terrorgram collective proscription

Security Minister Rt Hon Tom Tugendhat MP laid before the House of Commons a draft order to proscribe the Terrorgram collective on 24th April, the first online terror network to be proscribed. The draft order also marks the UK as the first country to proscribe the group.

In the Commons Chamber, the Security Minister noted how Terrorgram “holds vile antisemitic views”, and “has published propaganda material aimed at inciting violence against Jewish communities and the state of Israel”.

Most notably, Terrorgram “celebrated Hamas’s attacks on Israel, including endorsing the use of terrorism to target Israel and Jewish communities”, and advocating for further attacks.

The proscription of Terrorgram “further demonstrates [the Government’s] unwavering commitment to fighting antisemitism and our unfaltering support for the Jewish community” Tugendhat added.

Home Secretary James Cleverly underscored that “the Terrorgram collective spreads vile propaganda and aims to radicalise young people to conduct heinous terrorist acts”, in an online statement.

Security Minister Rt Hon Tom Tugendhat MP added that “we must do everything in our power to deter and limit the reach of hateful and terrorist ideologies, and to protect the most vulnerable in our society. Proscribing the Terrorgram collective will do just that”.

Conservative MPs call for Hamas’ death-toll figures to be scrutinised amid inaccuracies

Former Attorney General Rt Hon Sir Michael Ellis KC MP, alongside CFI’s Parliamentary Vice Chair Andrew Percy MP, have called for Hamas’ Gaza death toll figures to be scrutinised amid reports of inaccuracies.

Rt Hon Sir Michael Ellis KC MP has written to the UK Statistics Authority to notify them of the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry’s admission to holding “incomplete data” for a third of Gazan deaths since 7 October, warning their figures should not be trusted.

On 6 April the Ministry admitted to having “incomplete data” for 11,371 of the 33,091 Palestinian fatalities it claims to have documented.

Prior to this, the Ministry admitted to sharing incomplete data, and has asserted that the information in more than 15,000 fatality records had stemmed from “reliable media sources”. However, these sources were unidentified by the Ministry, nor does Gaza have an independent media.

Rt Hon Sir Michael Ellis KC MP told the Sunday Telegraph that “it is important to recognise that Hamas is a vicious terrorist organisation and their reports should not be automatically accepted and repeated as the unquestioned truth”.

CFI’s Vice Chair Andrew Percy MP noted that “for months now, civil society, the BBC and politicians on all sides have parroted the figures from Hamas as if they are fact, despite many of us warning that these figures are highly questionable and pointing to Hamas’s previous misuse and lies and casualty figures in the conflict”.

“The fact that even Hamas are now accepting that their figures are inflated shows why more care should have been taken by politicians, the media and others”, he added.

Greg Smith MP: UNRWA is “not fit for purpose”

“UNRWA is just not fit for purpose”, Greg Smith MP told James Max on Talk TV Monday evening. The Conservative MP for Buckingham cautioned that UNRWA “is not an organisation we should in any way shape or form be funding in the UK… because unfortunately, that’s just funding greater terror activity”.

“Fear[ful] that Hamas have got absolute control of UNRWA”, he highlighted that “over half” of UNRWA employees working in Gaza are either directly involved with Hamas or “sympathetic to Hamas”. He also detailed how a “massive Hamas data centre” was discovered under UNRWA headquarters, schools and hospitals have been “built above the terror tunnels”, and that the curriculum “distributed by UNRWA to school children in Gaza… speak the most horrendous things about supporting those that go into Israel to try and destroy it, and to kill Jews”.

Discussing the delivery of aid, Smith noted that UNRWA’s delivery capacity is “minuscule compared to other aid agencies”, underscoring that “in February about 18% of aid trucks came through from UNRWA [and] that had dropped to 15% by March”. Stating that he “thinks we’re past the point of no return”, Smith asserted that the UK needs to be looking to “other aid organisations that can actually get humanitarian aid to the people who need it, the civilians in Gaza that need that food [and] need those medical supplies… where we can have a confidence that Hamas are not going to misappropriate it”.

Rocket launchers in humanitarian zone, Gaza (Photo credit: IDF)

Hostage video released by Hamas

A video of 23-year-old American-Israeli hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin was published by Hamas this week, marking the first time in months the terror group has provided a sign of life of any hostage.

Hersh, who was kidnapped from the Nova Festival on 7 October, is seen with his left hand and forearm missing, an injury thought to be sustained from a grenade thrown by Hamas on 7 October.

The video is thought to have been filmed recently, as Hersh discusses “nearly 200 days” in “hell”.

After seeing the video, Hersh’s father Jon, said “Until yesterday, we didn’t know he was alive. We hoped he was, but we didn’t know”.

“There were so many emotions, but at the core, for the first time in 200 days, we saw him and heard him”, he added.

The Hostages Families Forum Headquarters released a statement underscoring that “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”.

“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”, they declared.

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm Daniel Hagari highlighted that “133 hostages are still being held by Hamas in Gaza, for over 200 days, in inhumane conditions”.

“Until Hamas releases our hostages the IDF will continue to pursue Hamas everywhere in Gaza”, he vowed.

The “psychological terror video” serves “not only a reminder of what Hamas did on October 7th, it is a reminder of how sick this terror group is, terrorising the hostages and their families too”, he stated.

Speaking directly to Hersh’s parents Rachel and Jon, he said “Our hearts are with you. We will continue doing everything in our power to bring your son Hersh and all our hostages back home”.

Rocket launchers discovered in humanitarian zone, Gaza

Rocket launchers were discovered within a humanitarian zone in southern Gaza, just 45 feet away from civilian shelters.

The launchers identified, belonging to Hamas, were preloaded ready to attack Israel.

On Wednesday, the IDF carried out targeted airstrikes in order to destroy the two rocket launchers, keeping civilians unharmed.

Since 7 October, more than 9,100 rockets have been launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel.

On Tuesday, rocket shrapnel hit a warehouse in Sderot causing a fire.

U.S. pier in Gaza targeted by mortar shells

The U.S. spearheaded pier, currently under construction in Gaza, was hit by mortar shells, the IDF announced yesterday.

The pier, built specifically to facilitate more aid to Gaza was hit on Wednesday whilst UN officials were touring the site with IDF troops.

No one was injured in the attack, with the UN officials brought to safety.

An IDF spokesperson said that “terrorist organisations continue to systematically harm humanitarian efforts while risking the lives of UN workers”.

Hamas has not claimed responsibility as of yet but has previously warned that they would “resist any foreign military presence involved with the port project”.

An IDF spokesperson confirmed that the IDF will protect the pier. It is thought this will include troops on the ground, as well as a naval ship, and aircraft above.

Israeli civilian killed in Hezbollah attack

Sharif Sawad, a 29-year-old Bedouin Israeli, was killed by an anti-tank missile launched by Hezbollah yesterday evening.

Sawad was employed as a civilian contractor by the IDF, tasked with erecting a barrier on the Israel-Lebanon border by Mount Dov.

In response, Israel targeted the source of fire, a weapons storage facility and rocket launcher in Chebaa, southern Lebanon, and additional Hezbollah targets in Markaba, Kfarchouba and Ain al-Tineh.

Civilians were also targeted on Wednesday, when a house was hit in Kibbutz Merav shattering a window. Children were playing close to the window and sustained minor injuries from glass shards.

Two anti-tank missiles were also fired towards Avivim where a house was hit with no casualties.

Due to the high temperatures in Israel and explosive material within the missiles, an anti-tank missile caused a fire in Yaron.

On Monday, Hezbollah launched two rounds of approximately 20 rockets towards the Israeli town of Tzfat.

Two senior Hezbollah Aerial Unit terrorists killed

Two senior Hezbollah terrorists, serving in the terror group’s Aerial Units were killed earlier this week.

Sajed Sarafand, a senior official of the Radwan Forces’ Aerial Unit was killed in Arzoun on Monday evening. Sarafand led and incited terrorist attacks against Israel.

Hussein Ali Azkul, a senior official in Hezbollah’s Aerial Defence Unit in southern Lebanon was killed early Tuesday morning in an Israeli Air Force (IAF) targeted airstrike. Azkul was extremely prominent in Hezbollah’s Aerial Unit, heavily involved in planning and executing terrorist attacks against Israel.

Stabbing attack, Ramle

An 18-year-old female has been left in serious condition after a stabbing attack this afternoon in Ramle.

The terrorist, reportedly from Lod, was killed by a passer-by with a firearm obtained after 7 October.

Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir alongside Police Chief of the Central District Avi Bitton visited the scene after the attack. When leaving the area, Ben-Gvir’s car was involved in a collision, resulting in the car flipping over. The Minister is conscious and has been taken to hospital. Ben Gvir’s daughter, his driver, and security guard were also in the vehicle and sustained light injuries.

Drive by shooting, Jerusalem

Three people were injured, including a 15-year-old male, in a car ramming, shooting attack on Techelet Mordechai Street, Jerusalem, on Monday morning, as Israel prepared to welcome in Passover.

The two terrorists rammed into three people before leaving their car in an attempt to shoot passers-by, but their guns failed to fire.

The terrorists, having escaped the scene, were later found in the same neighbourhood of the attack (Romema), hiding in a furniture store, in possession of a submachine gun.

The three victims all sustained minor injuries and were discharged from Shaare Zedek Hospital the same day.

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