France confirms 45 Israeli hostages received vital drugs
Israelis protest calling for the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, at Azrieli Mall in Tel Aviv on Feb. 21, 2024. (Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum thanked the French president “for his meaningful initiative and involvement in facilitating this process through Qatar.”

By Joshua Marks
February 24, 2024

(JNS) — France confirmed on Wednesday that 45 Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza have received urgent medications that entered the enclave over a month ago in a deal brokered by Paris and Doha.

The Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs’ deputy spokesperson expressed this to local media, and the government ministry also contacted the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, a group representing the families of those captured by Hamas on Oct. 7, which confirmed the exchange in a statement.

“We wish to personally thank President Emmanuel Macron of France for his meaningful initiative and involvement in facilitating this process through Qatar,” the Forum said in a press release.

“We anxiously followed this effort and are grateful for the compassion and humanity displayed by President Macron on this issue. France is a true friend to the families of the hostages, and we will not forget their support in this matter.”

Forty-two French citizens were killed in the Hamas-led attack on the northwestern Negev and three others are missing and believed to be held by Hamas. A total of 1,200 people were murdered on that day, thousands more wounded and 253 taken captive, with 134 still there after 139 days, 32 of whom are confirmed dead.

The French announcement came a day after Qatar confirmed that the terrorist group in Gaza had received the shipment of medical supplies and has started delivering them to hostages in Gaza.

Israel said that it was evaluating the credibility of the confirmation from Hamas.

“The Qatari announcement is the direct result of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence on receiving proof that the medicines have reached our hostages,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

“Israel will evaluate the credibility of the report and continue to act for the well-being of our hostages,” the statement continued.

“Qatar received these confirmations as the mediator in the agreement, which includes the entry of the medicines and shipment of humanitarian aid to civilians in the Gaza Strip, especially in the most affected and damaged areas, in exchange for delivering the medicines needed by hostages in the sector,” Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesman, Majed Al-Ansari, said in a statement.

In mid-January, Qatar and France mediated an agreement in which Israel would approve more humanitarian aid to Gaza in exchange for Hamas allowing medicine to be delivered to the hostages.

France purchased and delivered to Doha a list of medicines for some 45 captives who urgently needed them, with Qatar and Hamas announcing on Jan. 17 that the vital drugs had entered the Strip. A senior Hamas official said at the time that for every box provided for the hostages, 1,000 boxes of medicine were being sent in for Gazans.

On Feb. 9, Qatar informed Israel and France of Hamas’s assurances that the medicines were delivered to the hostages, but the families of two hostages rescued from Rafah on Feb. 12 said their loved ones had not received medication.

secret operation to deliver medicines to the hostages was revealed on Feb. 16 when IDF soldiers found boxes of medicine at Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis with the names of hostages on them.

Rotem Cooper, whose father, Amiram Cooper, 85, was kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Oz and has been held in Gaza for 138 days, helped organize an operation to send medicine into the Gaza Strip for the hostages. The move was unknown to the Israeli government.

The medicine was transferred from European countries to Egypt and then to the Gaza Strip via the Rafah crossing, with help from local and international organizations, Channel 12 reported.

“We have no indication that the drugs actually reached one hostage or another. We will only know this if someone returns from captivity and reports that he has received a certain medication,” Rotem Cooper told the Israeli news network.

“My mother was released on day 17, before the shipment came in. The last abductees were released on day 55 and we did not thoroughly interrogate them on the matter. This was more or less around the time the first drugs went in,” he explained.

He started a WhatsApp chat group on Oct. 8, the day after the Hamas massacre, called “Medicines for Abductees.” It began as a way to gather information about which medicines were needed by the captives.

The group then took the initiative to send medicine independently of the government, the first shipment entered the Gaza Strip in mid-November.

The organizers had no intention of revealing the existence of the secret shipments and only did so because of the discovery by the IDF. “[W]e wanted to control the narrative. Of course, we really want to show that such initiatives bring results,” Rotem Cooper said.

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