October 8, 2023 | Flash Brief

Hamas Takes Israelis and Foreign Nationals Hostage

October 8, 2023 | Flash Brief

Hamas Takes Israelis and Foreign Nationals Hostage

Latest Developments

Hamas has reportedly seized as many as 100 people as hostages, including Israelis, Americans, and other foreign nationals, since its war with Israel began on October 7. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Washington is working to verify reports of the abductions. The terrorist group likely intends to use its captives, who include women, children, the elderly, and even a Holocaust survivor in a wheelchair, as bargaining chips to extract concessions from Israel. France, Germany, and Ukraine have indicated that their citizens are among those captured or killed by Hamas. Vivian Silver, a Canadian-Israeli peace activist, is among the hostages as well. “Don’t kill me,” an Israeli woman cries in a video of her abduction that has gone viral.

Expert Analysis

“Hamas is following the playbook of its Iranian sponsor by seizing innocent civilians as hostages. Recently, the United States provided $16 billion in frozen funds to the regime in Iran in exchange for five American hostages. This demonstrated to Tehran and its proxies the benefits of this merciless extortion racket. Now Israel faces a horrendous dilemma of how to secure the return of the Israeli, American, and other foreign hostages held by Hamas. With the Israeli government under enormous domestic pressure to end the rule of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, the fate of the hostages could give way to other priorities.” — Mark Dubowitz, FDD CEO

“The hostages may give Hamas leverage. But the illegal capture of civilians puts the terror group in a position that justifies tough policies on the part of both the United States and Israel.” — Jonathan Schanzer, FDD Senior Vice President for Research

A History of Hostage-Taking

Hamas and other terrorist groups have a lengthy history of capturing Israeli citizens — and receiving robust concessions for their release. In 2011, for example, Hamas freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, whom it captured five years earlier, in exchange for the release of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, including more than 300 serving life terms for violence against Israel. In 2008, the terrorist group Hezbollah released the bodies of two killed Israeli soldiers in exchange for Hezbollah commander Samir Kuntar, who had murdered an Israeli family of five in 1979. The victims included a four-year-old girl, who died when Kuntar smashed her head with the butt of his rifle.

An Emboldened Iran

Hamas’ hostage-taking reflects the will of Iran, who has captured numerous innocents since the 1979 hostage crisis, when Tehran held 52 Americans at the U.S. embassy of Tehran for 444 days. “We’ll take 1,000 Americans hostage,” said Mohsen Rezaei, a former vice president of Iran for economic affairs who has held multiple senior positions in the regime, in 2021. “America will have to pay several billions to get every single one freed. This is how we can solve our economic problems.”

Over the summer, the United States and Iran reached a hostage deal that entailed a ransom payment of $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds in South Korea in exchange for the release of five innocent Americans. Similarly, in 2016, the Obama administration negotiated a scheme alongside the 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, sending Iran $400 million — the first installment of a $1.7 billion payment — as Tehran released four Americans. The result was more hostages taken by the clerical regime, which transferred the $1.7 billion to its military budget.

Iran-backed Hamas Brutally Attacks Israel,” FDD Flash Brief

Biden has a secret, illegal deal with Iran that gives mullahs everything they want,” by Richard Goldberg

U.S. to Release $6 Billion to Iran in Exchange for Hostages,” FDD Flash Brief


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