Israel-Gaza live updates: IDF releases Hamas ‘psychological terror’ video of young hostages

Written by on May 19, 2024

Palestinians who fled Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip ride with their belongings in the back of a truck, as they arrive to take shelter in Deir el-Balah in the central part of the Palestinian territory on May 12, 2024. – Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — As the Israel-Hamas war crosses the seven-month mark, renewed negotiations are underway to secure the release of hostages taken by the terrorist organization, as Israeli forces continue to prepare for an apparent invasion of the southern Gazan town of Rafah.

Here’s how the news is developing:

May 19, 5:18 PM
IDF releases footage of young Israeli hostages it says were forced to film Hamas video under duress

Israel Defense Forces released Sunday raw video footage it says its troops recovered in Gaza that shows former Israeli hostages 8-year-old Ela Elyakim and her 15-year-old sister Dafna Elyakim being forced by Hamas terrorists to film repeatedly.

“The video, which is being released today for the first time was intended to be used by Hamas for psychological terror,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, an IDF spokesperson, said in a statement. “But Ela’s family asked us to share it with the world to expose Hamas’s terror, to expose Hamas’s cruelty, to expose Hamas’s barbarism.”

Hagari said the raw footage of the girls recording the video was recovered by IDF troops during Israel’s ground operations in Gaza.

The Elyakim sisters were kidnapped on Oct. 7 from their father’s house in Nahal Oz, according to the IDF. Their father was killed in the surprise attack on Israel by Hamas terrorists, according to the IDF.

Ela and Dafana Elyakim were held hostage for 51 days before Hamas released them in a previous hostage deal, the IDF said.

Ela Elyakim told IDF officials that Hamas terrorists forced her to read from a script and made her change clothes multiple times as they refilmed the video over and over, according to Hagari.

“We will continue doing everything in our power to bring our hostages back home,” said Hagari.

-ABC News’ Victoria Beaule

May 18, 11:34 PM
GOP Rep. Stefanik to visit Knesset, denounce Biden over weapons pause

House Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik of New York will be giving remarks in the Israeli Knesset on Sunday, according to her office. Stefanik will be the highest-ranking member of the House to visit Israel following the Oct. 7 attack.

Stefanik plans to slam President Joe Biden for recently halting some military aid to Israel, according to excerpts of her speech reviewed by ABC News.

“I have been clear at home, and I will be clear here: There is no excuse for an American president to block aid to Israel,” Stefanik will say during the address.

Biden announced the U.S. would withhold certain bomb deliveries to Israel over fear they could be used in Rafah, but the Biden administration informed Congress it’s moving forward with more than $1 billion in new arms agreements with Israel.

The congresswoman will address the rise in antisemitism in the U.S., House Republicans’ support for Israel and even mention her close ally, former President Donald Trump.

“I have been a leading proponent and partner to President Trump in his historic support for Israeli independence and security,” Stefanik will say.

-ABC News’ Lauren Peller

May 18, 6:14 PM
3 US medical workers remain in Gaza despite warning from US government

Three U.S. medical professionals remain in Gaza despite warnings from the U.S. State Department that the American government may not be able to get them out later.

Tamer Hassan, a registered nurse, Dr. Jomana Al-Hinti and Dr. Adam Hamawy were the only ones out of a group of 20 American medical professionals who stayed behind to help treat patients.

“They understand that the U.S. embassy may not be able to facilitate their departure in the same manner as we have just effected today,” a person with knowledge of the situation told ABC News.

Hamawy released a statement Saturday explaining why he stayed behind.

“We worry that the European Hospital we currently are in will suffer a similar fate of Al-Shifa and Nasser hospitals, where humanitarian workers, patients, and civilians were massacred,” he said.

“To my wife, daughters and son, I know it hurts that I am not coming home this weekend, and I am sorry. But I know that you are proud that I am upholding my oath to never leave anyone behind,” he added.

The doctors who left Gaza “made their way to safety with assistance from the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem,” a State Department spokesman said.

-ABC News’ Anne Flaherty, Nadine Shubailat and Zoe Magee

May 18, 2:36 PM
Gantz gives Netanyahu ultimatum: approve post-war plan or he will resign

Israeli cabinet minister Benny Gantz has given Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu an ultimatum: approve a post-war plan by June 8, or he will resign, Gantz said at a press conference.

“While the Israeli soldiers show supreme bravery on the front, some of the men who sent them into battle behave with cowardice and irresponsibility,” Gantz said.

A leader of the National Unity Party and a minister in the war cabinet, Gantz’s resignation would not necessarily trigger the collapse of the government on its own, but would be politically significant.

The ultimatum come on the heels of a speech by defense minister Yoav Gallant, who is demanding a plan for the “day after” the war.

-ABC News’ Jordana Miller and Dana Savir

May 18, 1:30 PM
Body of hostage found, returned to Israel

Israel announced that it has identified the body of a fourth hostage this week. Ron Benjamin, 53, was killed during the Oct. 7 Hamas attack and taken into Gaza, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The bodies of three other hostages were also recovered in a tunnel in the same operation, according to the IDF.

Benjamin was a family man who loved cycling, the Hostages Families Forum said in a statement.

“He used to go out for a ride every Saturday, just as he did on that fateful Saturday when he was taken hostage from the Kibbutz Be’eri area while on a cycling trip,” the statement said.

-ABC News’ Victoria Beaule

May 18, 8:53 AM
More than 630,000 fled Rafah since May 6, UN says

More than 630,000 people have fled Rafah since May 6 amid widening operations by Israel’s military, with many seeking refuge in Al-Mawasi and Deir al-Balah — areas overcrowded with “dire conditions” — according to the United Nations.

-ABC News’ Emma Ogao

May 17, 3:00 PM
Gaza assistance through US maritime corridor not replacement for aid through land: USAID

Humanitarian assistance shipments delivered to Gaza through the U.S.’ maritime corridor should not replace aid coming into the enclave through land crossings where “barely 100 trucks of aid a day” entered over the last two weeks — about a sixth of the level needed to stave off famine — USAID Administrator Samantha Power said in a statement Friday.

“Every moment that a crossing is not open, that trucks are not moving, or where aid cannot safely be distributed, increases the terrible human costs of this conflict,” Power said.

Supplies coming into Gaza through the temporary pier Friday include contributions from the U.S., United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

But, the statement doesn’t say how much aid is now being moved through the corridor at this point or how much of it is sitting in Cyprus waiting to be shipped — so it’s still unclear if and when these deliveries might have a substantial impact.

-ABC News’ Shannon Crawford and Anne Flaherty

May 17, 2:00 PM
1,400 buildings have been damaged, destroyed in Rafah this month

Almost 1,400 buildings have likely been damaged or destroyed in Rafah, Gaza, since May 4, according to an analysis of satellite imagery by two university researchers.

Data from the radar-enabled Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite operated by the European Space Agency was used to analyze the effects of fighting on the terrain and buildings of Gaza, according to Corey Scher, of the CUNY Graduate Center, and Jamon Van Den Hoek, of Oregon State University.

Between May 4 and May 8, the researchers found evidence that 895 buildings were likely damaged or destroyed in Rafah. From May 8 to May 16 they counted 487.

Since Oct. 5, the researchers have found evidence of likely damage or destruction to 18,176 of the 48,678 buildings in Rafah.

-ABC News’ Chris Looft

May 17, 12:01 PM
IDF recovers bodies of 3 hostages in overnight operation

The bodies of three hostages have been recovered, according to the Israel Defense Forces. The bodies of Shani Louk, Yitzhak Gelanter and Amit Buskila were recovered in an operation by the Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency.

The hostages had escaped from the Nova Music Festival and were killed in the area of ​​Kibbutz Mefalsim and their bodies were taken to Gaza, according to the IDF.

“Our hearts go out to them, to the families, at this difficult time and we will leave no stone unturned, we will do everything in our power to find our hostages and bring them home,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, spokesperson for the IDF, said. “We will not rest until we do.”

May 17, 11:30 AM
75 launches detected from Lebanon into Israel Friday, IDF says

After Israel killed a senior Hezbollah commander on Thursday, 75 launches were detected crossing from southern Lebanon into Israel on Friday, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Dozens of the launches were intercepted and a launcher in the area of Yaroun was struck and dismantled, preventing more launches, according to the IDF.

-ABC News’ Will Gretsky

May 17, 7:02 AM
US CENTCOM says first trucks carrying aid have moved ashore via temporary pier

The United States Central Command (U.S. CENTCOM) has confirmed that the first trucks carrying humanitarian assistance have now moved ashore via the JLOTS temporary pier on Friday.

“Today at approximately 9 a.m. (Gaza time), trucks carrying humanitarian assistance began moving ashore via a temporary pier in Gaza,” according to a U.S. CENTCOM statement on X, formerly known as Twitter. “No U.S. troops went ashore in Gaza. This is an ongoing, multinational effort to deliver additional aid to Palestinian civilians in Gaza via a maritime corridor that is entirely humanitarian in nature, and will involve aid commodities donated by a number of countries and humanitarian organizations.”

May 16, 4:05 PM
Thai nationals taken hostage by Hamas declared dead

Two Thai nationals who were taken during the Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel have now been declared dead, according to the Hostages Families Forum Headquarters.

Officials now say Sonthaya Oakkharasri and Sudthisak Rinthalak were killed on the day of the invasion by Hamas and their bodies were taken back to Gaza, where they remain. Both were agricultural workers in the orchards near Kibbutz Be’eri, the Hostage Families Forum said.

“The horrific cruelty of Hamas was directed against anyone in their path without distinction of origin or nationality,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces, said in a statement. “In front of our eyes stands the moral duty to bring them all back –- to bring all 132 hostages home as quickly as possible.”

Thirty-nine Thai citizens were killed and 31 Thai citizens were kidnapped to Gaza in the attack on Oct. 7. Large numbers of Thai nationals have traditionally done agricultural work in Israel.

-ABC News’ Will Gretsky

May 16, 3:09 PM
Floating pier in place off coast of Gaza, aid coming ashore soon

The floating pier system — the U.S. military’s Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore, or JLOTS, capability — is now in place off the coast of Gaza, the U.S. Central Command announced Thursday morning. Officials said they expect to begin transporting about 500 tons of assistance to shore “in coming days.”

They said the expectation remains that between 90 and 150 truckloads a day of aid will flow into Gaza, but the officials called that characterization “an imperfect measure” and stressed it was more important to focus on the amount of tons of aid. There are currently 500 tons of aid waiting to be offloaded.

Security for U.S. forces and nongovernmental organizations participating in the JLOTS system is a top priority, officials said, adding the Israel Defense Forces will provide security at the point where the aid will arrive and be transferred to the U.N. and other NGOs.

But officials said the security for those working on bringing aid ashore could still be improved.

“The deconfliction measures are not where they need to be at, given the complexity of the environment,” said Sonali Korde, assistant to the administrator of USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance. “So those conversations are ongoing. They need to continue and they need to get to a place where humanitarian aid workers feel safe and secure and able to operate safely and I don’t think we’re there yet.”

-ABC News’ Luis Martinez

May 16, 11:22 AM
IDF confirms they sent more troops into Rafah

The Israel Defense Forces’ Commando Brigade was deployed to southern Gaza’s Rafah overnight, joining the 162nd Division that has been operating in the eastern part of the city since earlier this month.

The move comes as the Israeli government is expected to approve widening the offensive there.

“Additional troops will join the ground operation in Rafah,” Israel Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant said Thursday, in remarks after completing an operational situation assessment at the Gaza border in Rafah.

“Several tunnels in the area have been destroyed by our troops and additional tunnels will be destroyed soon. This activity will intensify,” he said.

-ABC News’ Jordana Miller and Will Gretsky

May 16, 7:14 AM
Floating pier designed to increase aid to Gaza now in place

A floating pier designed to increase the amount of aid getting into Gaza — known as a Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore (JLOTS) system — was successfully anchored to the central Gazan shore on Thursday morning, according to IDF Spokesperson Nadav Shoshani.

The Israeli Navy will be securing an aid ship to JLOTS and Israeli soldiers from the 99th Division will be on the ground securing the port area, according to the IDF.

The United Nations, led by the World Food Programme, will be responsible for distributing the aid from JLOTS, the IDF said.

May 16, 6:53 AM
Putin and Xi discuss Ukraine, Israel and Hamas war

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping held several hours of talks on Thursday in China, with Putin saying both Russia and China want political solutions to the “Ukrainian crisis” and Xi calling for a two-state solution to stop the war between Israel and Hamas.

Xi also took a moment to praise China’s “everlasting friendship” with Russia.

President Putin was welcomed with pomp expected on his state visit to China, complete with red carpet, military band and hundreds of Chinese militaries standing at attention to welcome him to the Great Hall of the People.

May 15, 1:14 PM
Israel has amassed enough troops for full-scale incursion of Rafah: US officials

The U.S. has assessed that Israel has amassed enough troops on the edge of Rafah to move forward with a full-scale incursion into the city, but the U.S. is not sure if Israel has made a final decision to actually do so, according to two U.S. officials.

One official added that the U.S. does not have a timeline or estimate on when Israel could potentially move forward with operations.

The official stressed the U.S. continues to have the same concerns for civilian safety in Rafah.

-ABC News’ Luis Martinez and Selina Wang

May 15, 1:06 PM
Gallant calls on Netanyahu to publicly reject Israeli civil or military governance of Gaza after Hamas

Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant publicly called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make the “tough” decision to declare what a non-Hamas government over the Gaza Strip will look like.

“I must reiterate, I will not agree to the establishment of Israeli military rule in Gaza. Israel must not establish civilian rule in Gaza,” Gallant said.

Failure to do that would undermine the IDF achievements in the war, Gallant warned.

“Since October, I have been raising this issue consistently in the Cabinet, and have received no response. The end of the military campaign must come together with political action,” Gallant said.

“The ‘day after Hamas,’ will only be achieved with Palestinian entities taking control of Gaza, accompanied by international actors, establishing a governing alternative to Hamas’ rule,” Gallant said.

-ABC News’ Will Gretsky

May 15, 10:03 AM
Blinken calls continued closure of Rafah gate ‘urgent problem’

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was asked how long the U.S. would standby while Israel continues to seal off the Rafah gate, cutting off Gaza from the world. Blinken told reporters it is an “urgent problem” that aid isn’t getting into Rafah or Kerem Shalom. He also said the humanitarian situation is at risk of backsliding.

However, there’s no plan for the future, Blinken said.

Israel “cannot and says it does not want responsibility for Gaza. We cannot have Hamas controlling Gaza. We cannot have chaos and anarchy in Gaza. So there needs to be a clear, concrete plan. And we look to Israel to come forward with its ideas,” Blinken said.

-ABC News’ Anne Flaherty

May 14, 7:02 PM
US moving forward with $1B in new weapons deals for Israel: Sources

The Biden administration notified Congress on Tuesday that it is moving forward with more than $1 billion in new weapons deals for Israel, according to sources familiar with the matter at the White House and on Capitol Hill.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters Monday that the United States is continuing to send military assistance to Israel. The only shipment paused involves the 2,000-pound bombs, for fear they’d be used in a major invasion in Rafah, according to a U.S. official.

May 14, 12:52 PM
450,000 Palestinians have fled Rafah, UN says

About 450,000 Palestinians have been displaced from Rafah, fleeing to safety, according to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

“Inland in Rafah is now a ghost town. It’s hard to believe there were over one million people sheltering here just a week ago,” UNRWA spokesperson Louise Wateridge said. “People face constant exhaustion, hunger and fear. Nowhere is safe. An immediate ceasefire is the only hope.”

The development comes as airstrikes continued to hit northern and southern Gaza Tuesday. The Israeli military said it had hit 120 targets in the last 24 hours.

May 14, 12:13 PM
International court to hold hearings over Israel’s Rafah attacks

The International Court of Justice said it will hold hearings over Israel’s attacks on Rafah during the war in Gaza, after South Africa sought new emergency measures as part of its ongoing case accusing Israel of violating the Genocide Convention in its offensive on Gaza.

Hearings will be held on Thursday and Friday in the Hague.

South Africa first brought the case before the ICJ in December alleging Israel violated its obligations in its offensive with regard to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

May 13, 4:16 PM
White House says world should be calling on Hamas to accept hostage proposal

National security adviser Jake Sullivan stressed the U.S. is working “urgently and relentlessly” to get a hostage deal in place, but did not have any major progress to share Monday.

Sullivan noted that he met with the families of American hostages this past Friday, and that “they know how hard the president is working on this.”

On where the hostage negotiations stand currently, Sullivan turned to the architect of the Good Friday agreement in Ireland.

“Sen. [George] Mitchell said quite famously, “‘Negotiations are 1,000 days of failure and one day of success.’ And right now, we’re in the former days rather than the latter day,” he said.

“[T]here could be a cease-fire tomorrow if Hamas simply released women, wounded and elderly hostages, all innocents. Israel put a forward-leaning proposal on the table for a cease-fire and hostage deal. The world should be calling on Hamas to come back to the table and accept a deal,” Sullivan said.

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle

May 13, 4:06 PM
US aware of American doctors trapped in Gaza

The State Department on Monday said it was aware of reports that U.S. doctors were trapped in Gaza, and that it’s been working with Israel to reopen the Rafah gate so U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals can leave.

“I can say that we’re aware of these reports of U.S. citizen doctors and medical professionals currently unable to leave Gaza,” principal deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said. “As I said before, we don’t control this border crossing. And this is a incredibly complex situation that has very serious implications for the safety and security of U.S. citizens. But we’re continuing to work around the clock with the government of Israel, with the government of Egypt, to work on this issue.”

He added, “Rafah is a conduit for the safe departure of foreign nationals, which is why we continue to want to see it get opened as swiftly as possible.”

The State Department said it does not have an estimate of Americans still trapped in Gaza, but that it’s helped 1,800 U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to depart Gaza so far.

“Unfortunately, this is not a border crossing the United States controls but we are continuing to work around the clock with the government of Israel, with the government of Egypt on whatever we can do to make sure that Rafah gets open. … We need to see Rafah open as soon as possible,” Patel said.

-ABC News’ Anne Flaherty

May 13, 2:23 PM
UN worker killed after vehicle struck in Gaza

A United Nations worker was killed and another injured after their vehicle was struck in Gaza on Monday, the organization said.

The staff members of the U.N. Department of Safety and Security were traveling to the European Hospital in Rafah when their U.N. vehicle was struck, the U.N. said.

Details on the incident were not immediately available. The U.N. said it is still gathering information.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has called for a full investigation, his spokesperson said.

“Humanitarian workers must be protected,” Guterres said on X. “I condemn all attacks on U.N. personnel and reiterate my urgent appeal for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire & the release of all hostages.”

More than 190 U.N. staff members have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to Guterres.

May 13, 3:44 AM
Almost 360,000 people have fled Rafah, UN agency says

Almost 360,000 people have fled from the southern Gazan city of Rafah since Israel issued an evacuation order last week, the United Nations agency operating in Gaza said on Monday.

“There’s nowhere to go,” the U.N. Agency for Palestine Refugees said on social media. “There’s NO safety without a cease-fire.”

The agency had said Sunday that 300,000 people had evacuated the city as Israel weighs a full-scale invasion.

-ABC News’ Kevin Shalvey

May 12, 5:39 PM
IDF say its opened new crossing for humanitarian aid into Gaza

The Israel Defense Forces has announced that it has opened a new crossing to bring humanitarian aid into the famine-stricken Gaza.

The military announced in a Sunday press release the opening of the “Western Erez crossing” between Israel and northern Gaza in coordination with the U.S.

According to the military, the new crossing is located west of the Erez crossing, closer to the seashore. The crossing was constructed by the Israeli military “as part of the effort to increase routes for aid to Gaza, particularly to the North of the strip.”

Earlier Sunday, IDF said it launched a large-scale operation in the area of Jabaliya in the North, while intensifying its military operations in the Eastern portion of Rafah and the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing. It said that it had called on the civilian population to evacuate from Jabaliya to shelters in the west part of Gaza City.

-ABC News’ Dragana Jovanovic

May 12, 2:27 PM
White House National Security Advisor speaks to Israeli counterpart, expresses concern over pending Rafah invasion

In a phone call Sunday with his Israeli counterpart, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan expressed an “ironclad U.S. commitment” to Israel but also voiced the Biden administration’s concerns about Israel’s major military operations in Gaza, according to the White House.

During the call with Israeli National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi, Sullivan reiterated President Joe Biden’s “longstanding concerns over the potential for a major military ground operation into Rafah, where over one million people have taken shelter,” according to a readout of the call that was released by the White House.

“He [Sullivan] discussed alternative courses of action to ensure the defeat of Hamas everywhere in Gaza,” the readout said. “Mr. Hanegbi confirmed that Israel is taking U.S. concerns into account.”

The White House said Sullivan also expressed condolences on Israel’s Memorial Day, the first since Hamas’ surprise Oct. 7 attacks on Israel. The Hamas attack killed 1,200 people, most of them civilians, according to Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office.

Sullivan and Hanegbi also reviewed discussions by officials on both sides of the war about alternatives for a Rafah invasion and agreed to plan an in-person meeting soon, according to the White House.

-ABC News’ Michelle Stoddart

May 12, 6:16 AM
300,000 have fled Rafah, UN agency says

More than 300,000 people have fled Rafah in the week since Israel issued a partial evacuation order, the United Nations agency operating in Gaza said on Sunday.

The U.N. Agency for Palestine Refugees called the evacuation “forced and inhumane.”

“There is nowhere safe to go,” the agency said on social media, repeating the phrase three times for emphasis.

The Israeli military late Saturday called again for civilians to evacuate from much of the eastern part of the city, which is in southern Gaza.

Israel Defense Forces entered Rafah last week, in what they called a “precise” operation ahead of potential invasion.

“Prior to our operations we urge civilians to temporarily move towards humanitarian areas and move away from the crossfire that Hamas puts them in,” the Israel Defense Forces said on a post on Telegram. “Our war is against Hamas, not against the people of Gaza.”

-ABC News’ Dragana Jovanovic and Kevin Shalvey

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