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As Kfir Bibas turns 1 in captivity, supporters from Tel Aviv to Davos mark ‘the saddest birthday in the world’

TEL AVIV (JTA) — Three weeks after her cousin was abducted and taken to Gaza along with her family, Yifar Zailer said she knew one thing for sure: “I don’t want to be here in two months, celebrating Kfir’s first birthday.”

And yet that’s exactly what Zailer did on Thursday, returning to Hostages Square in Tel Aviv for what her family had dubbed “the saddest birthday in the world.”

Zailer was there along with hundreds of others to mark the first birthday of Kfir Bibas, the youngest hostage to be taken hostage when Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7.

Kfir and his 4-year-old brother Ariel became an early face to the hostage crisis that morning, when Hamas released a video clip showing them being abducted from Kibbutz Nir Oz along with their mother Shiri, whose terror was visible. Their father Yarden Bibas was also abducted.

In November, all of the other child hostages and their mothers were released during a ceasefire deal. Shortly afterwards, Hamas said Kfir, Ariel and Shiri Bibas had all been killed in captivity, offering no evidence but releasing a video in which an anguished Yarden exhorted Israel to end its war. Israel has not confirmed or denied Hamas’ claims.

Zailer said there had been no information about the family’s status delivered privately, either. And so both she and the legion of advocates who have converted a central square in Tel Aviv into a lobbying location to bring the hostages home planned a birthday party befitting the lively redheaded boy who has spent a quarter of his life in captivity.

Many people in the crowd were wearing orange in homage to the two brothers’ distinctive red hair and clutching orange balloons. The balloons were released at the end of the event to the tune of “They Call Me Gingi,” a new song composed for the baby by several Israeli performers whose lyrics include, “I was left behind / they say I’m a hero / I don’t know why.”

Judith Paz, who has been volunteering with the Bibas family in charge of English-language content on its social media channels, said she refused to wish Kfir a happy birthday because there was “nothing happy about it.”

“But next year, we’ll all be here celebrating because there will be a huge party for Kfir’s second birthday in Hostages Square, together with Kfir and the rest of his family,” she said.

Other gatherings honoring Kfir took place around the world, with orange balloons being released in several European cities, a candlelight vigil by members of the U.S. Congress, and an art show in Berlin featuring works by a member of the extended Bibas family.

A photo of Kfir was also on display next to Israeli President Isaac Herzog during his address at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday. He revealed that he had met with officials from the Red Cross in Israel two days earlier to discuss “the clear and present danger to our hostages.”

Around 150 high-ranking executives, including prominent Jewish business leaders Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, Dell CEO Michael Dell, Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg, held a meeting with released hostages at the forum.

Judith Paz, who has been volunteering with the Bibas family, says she will celebrate Kfir Bibas’ birthday when he is home. (Deborah Danan)

Rachel Goldberg-Polin, whose son Hersh was taken captive to Gaza after having his arm blown off, called on the corporate leaders to “leverage their global connections to immediately advance a deal without delay,” according to a statement released by the Hostages Families Forum.

Nili Margalit, who was kidnapped from her home in Kibbutz Nir Oz and subsequently released during November’s truce, said there was “not enough air to breathe” in the subterranean tunnels she was held in.

“Most of the people I was with in the tunnels are still being held deep underground, and they are terrified and wounded,” she said according to the statement. “The hostages could die any day. Every hour is dangerous for them.”

Zailer, who like the Bibases holds Argentinian citizenship, has been all around the world tirelessly advocating for her family’s release.

“We’re doing everything we can to push our government and other governments to make this deal [with Hamas] to get them out,” she said.

A breakthrough in talks took place this week, with Hamas agreeing for the first time to allow medicine in for the hostages. But it has not yet agreed to allow Red Cross doctors to visit the roughly 100 living Israelis understood to be in Gaza — Hamas is also believed to be holding the bodies of about 30 Israelis, including two whose deaths were confirmed this week — no further progress around releasing additional hostages has been reported.

“We need a deal now,” said Yossi Schneider, another cousin. Referring to Hamas’ chief in Gaza whom Israeli officials say has surrounded himself with hostages, he added, “Yahya Sinwar can be killed any day, but Kfir and the others have no more time.”

The post As Kfir Bibas turns 1 in captivity, supporters from Tel Aviv to Davos mark ‘the saddest birthday in the world’ appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Russia Extends Invitation to Palestinian Factions for Talks in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Photo: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

i24 NewsRussia has extended invitations to various Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Fatah, for discussions on the Israel-Hamas conflict and broader issues in the Middle East.

Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov announced the initiative on Friday, highlighting Moscow’s desire to engage with all major players in the region amid heightened tensions.

The invitation included a dozen Palestinian groups and is slated for “inter-Palestinian” talks scheduled to commence on February 29.

Bogdanov, serving as President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for the Middle East, emphasized the inclusivity of the invitation, stating, “We invited all Palestinian representatives — all political forces that have their positions in different countries, including Syria, Lebanon, and other countries in the region.”

Among the invitees are Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, alongside representatives of Fatah and the broader Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

The invitation comes at a critical juncture as the Israel-Hamas conflict continues to escalate, drawing international attention and concern. Russia’s proactive stance in convening discussions reflects its growing criticism of Israel and its Western allies, underscoring Moscow’s efforts to assert its influence in the region.

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Netanyahu: Those Who Want us to Desist from Rafah Op Are Telling Us to Lose

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct. 28, 2023. Photo: ABIR SULTAN POOL/Pool via REUTERS

i24 NewsHamas drops its “delusional” demands, productive hostage talks could begin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday, stressing Israel would not agree to the terror group’s current demands.

WATCH: PM Netanyahu delivers a statement after Hamas suspended negotiations

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) February 17, 2024

“I insist that Hamas should abandon its delusional demands – and when it does, we will be able to move forward,” Netanyahu said in a statement live on TV.

“Those who want us to desist from the Rafah operation,” the leader said in an apparent reference to the U.S. administration of President Joe Biden, “are telling us we should lose. We won’t be dictated to.”

The post Netanyahu: Those Who Want us to Desist from Rafah Op Are Telling Us to Lose first appeared on

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Iran Unveils New Air Defense Weaponry

Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani speaks at a press conference during the unveiling of a new surface-to-surface 4th generation Khorramshahr ballistic missile. Photo: Reuters/West Asia News Agency

i24 NewsIran demonstrated new weaponry on Saturday, including what it said was the locally made Arman anti-ballistic missile system and the Azarakhsh low-altitude air defense system, said the official IRNA news agency. Saturday’s unveiling ceremony of the two vehicle-mounted systems was held in the presence of Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani.

“With the entry of new systems into the country’s defense network, the air defense capability of the Islamic Republic of Iran will increase significantly,” said IRNA.

Video of the new Azarakhsh SHORAD engaging a target drone

It’s radar has a detection range of 50km, with 25km for it’s EO/IR suite

— Iran Defense|نیروهای مسلح جمهوری اسلامی ایران (@IranDefense) February 17, 2024

The Arman missile system is said to be able to “simultaneously confront six targets at a distance of 120 to 180 km,” while the Azarakhsh missile system “can identify and destroy targets up to a range of 50 km with four ready-to-fire missiles.”

The announcement comes amid tensions across the Middle East, with Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis attacking vessels linked to the United States, UK and Israel in the Red Sea in a show of solidarity with the Gaza Strip.

Iran unveils domestically-manufactured Arman anti-ballistic missile and Azarakhsh low-altitude air defense system

— Press TV (@PressTV) February 17, 2024

The U.S. and its allies in the Middle East are concerned with Iran’s growing role at the international global arms market, The Wall Street Journal said on Friday. The transformation of the industry, boosted by Russia’s “purchase of thousands of drones that altered the battlefield in Ukraine, has helped Tehran scale up its support of militia allies in Middle East conflicts,” read the report.

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