When Hamas terrorists rampaged across southern Israel on Oct. 7, they not only murdered 1,200 people, injured thousands more, and abducted 240 others as hostages back to Gaza; they also changed the lives of thousands of families forever.
The devastating impact of Hamas’ onslaught on survivors of the Oct. 7 massacre can be seen in newly unveiled photos of some of the hostages who have been released, as well as family members of others still in captivity in Gaza.
The side-by-side photos — from both before and after the Hamas atrocities — are part of a project by photographers Sharon Derhy and Michal Chitayat. The idea behind the images was to highlight the urgency of releasing the elderly hostages, amid reports of their declining health. Indeed, a flurry of recent reports, backed up by official testimony from Israeli health officials, have highlighted the trauma and torture — both physical and psychological — that the hostages endured.
Derhy is the wife of Lior Peri, whose father Haim Peri, 80, is still being held hostage in Gaza without his life-saving heart medications. The idea for the photo series was born when Lior revisited his father’s front porch after accompanying a TV crew to the plundered kibbutz. He recalled a serene moment captured two years ago when he and his father sat there immersed in the weekend papers.
On a whim, Lior asked his sister, Noam, to take a photo of him in the same spot, now marked by the absence of his father. In the new photo, Lior sits alone beside an empty chair, with a poster of his father hanging on the door of his destroyed home.
The Lifshitz family, neighbors to the Peris, share a similar plight. Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, was released after 17 days in captivity, and reported seeing Haim Peri alive in Gaza. Her husband, Oded, 83, remains in captivity. The photographers captured the ruins of the Lifshitz home and the burned-out carcass of Oded’s piano, in stark contrast to the photo taken before the attacks which shows the smiling couple posing in front of the piano.
Nurit Cooper is pictured with her grandson and husband, Amiram, 84.
Nurit, 79, was released together with Yocheved Lifshitz. Amiram, one of the founders of Nir Oz, saw the settlement of the Western Negev as his life’s mission.
Like the others featured in the photos, Amiram is still in Gaza without his medications.
The “before” photo depicts a smiling boy, Ohad Munder, flanked by his grandparents at a table on their porch in Kibbutz Nir Oz, their plates piled with food. The “after” photo is haunting both for all its striking similarities to the original — the same setting, the same hand placed affectionately on Ohad’s shoulder by his grandmother — and for its stark differences: The plates now sit empty, the smiles have vanished, and most jarringly of all, so has Ohad’s grandfather, Avraham, 78. Instead, a poster of him and the words “abducted” in Hebrew are tacked onto the wall.
Ruthy Munder, 78, her daughter Keren, 54, and grandson Ohad, 9, were taken captive by Hamas as part of the terror group’s savage attack on Oct. 7. They were released after 49 days. Avraham, who suffers from various chronic illnesses, is still being held captive in Gaza. The Munders’ other son, Roi, was murdered in his home in Nir Oz on Oct. 7.
The photo series was released on the first day of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights. Also on that day, Tamir Hershkovitz, son of Noah and Maayana Hershkovitz who were murdered on Oct. 7, was photographed lighting a menorah in the ruins of his parents’ home in Be’eri.
The crooked, rusty menorah, which belonged to Tamir’s late grandfather and Holocaust survivor Yosef, was one of the only items to survive the attack on their home.
Singing Maoz Tzur, a song about miracles traditionally sung after lighting the menorah, Tamir said he was “happy.”
“I choose to be happy for my parents,” the Yedioth Aharanoth newspaper cited Tamir as saying.
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Russia Extends Invitation to Palestinian Factions for Talks in Moscow
i24 News – Russia 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
i24 News – Hamas 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 pic.twitter.com/nxISPb4JUm
— 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.”
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Iran Unveils New Air Defense Weaponry
i24 News – Iran 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
— 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.
— 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.