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Released Hostages Speak at World Economic Forum, Urge Action

Ofri Bibas Levy, whose brother Yarden (34) was taken hostage with his wife Shiri (32) and 2 children Kfir (10 months) and Ariel (4), holds with her friend Tal Ulus pictures of them during an interview with Reuters, as the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas continues, in Geneva, Switzerland, Nov. 13, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

A group of released hostages spoke on Thursday before the World Economic Forum, currently underway in Davos, Switzerland.

“Hamas terrorists desecrated the most peaceful place and turned it into a bloodbath. On the way to Gaza I was beaten, I thought my life was over, I prayed that I would die quickly and without suffering,” said Moran Stela Yanai, a 40-year-old who was kidnapped from the Nova music festival in Re’im on October 7 and released as part of the November hostage deal. “Every minute we thought we would be raped. We couldn’t sleep, we couldn’t breathe, we weren’t allowed to speak. The captivity in Gaza included never-ending anxiety attacks and nightmares. Every day left a scar on the soul,” she continued.

Another former hostage, Niki Margalit, a 41-year-old nurse at Soroka Hospital in the south who was reported to have acted in her professional capacity taking care of fellow hostages in Gaza, said “By profession I am a nurse in a children’s emergency room, and I realized that there too I have to help and take care of those around me. But without medical supplies, this is an almost impossible task. In addition to the injuries and the sick, there is not enough air to breathe, not enough food, and [lack of] basic hygiene. The body is so weak that any disease can kill you. The abductees can die every day! Every hour is dangerous for them.”

Hamas terrorists kidnapped more than 240 civilians when they broke into southern Israel on October 7, also killing more than 1,200 Israelis, 364 of whom were murdered at the Nova music festival Yanai was taken captive from. After a global campaign reaching the capitals of most major countries, a hostage deal was brokered between Israel and Hamas, with mediation by Qatar and the United States, that led to the release of 110 hostages in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. Still, 132 remain held by terrorists in the Strip.

Other former hostages and families of those held spoke to Israeli media on Thursday, 104 days since the massacre of the 7th.

The youngest hostage taken, Kfir Bibas, 9-months-when he was kidnapped, celebrated his 1st birthday on Thursday. A cousin of his mother Shiri, told Israel media, “This is the saddest birthday in the world, and the world is doing nothing and nothing. There is a tiny baby in the captivity of Hamas for 104 days.” Hamas has claimed that Shiri, Kfir, and her 4-year-old, Ariel, were all killed in an Israeli airstrike, even posting a psychological warfare video telling the patriarch of the family, Yarden, that his wife and children were killed. The IDF has denied this story.

63-year-old Clara Marman, kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak and whose husband and brother are still being held, told Israeli television on Thursday “I don’t exactly feel like I’m back. In my head, I’m still there. Right now I’m making every effort to get [my husband and brother] back. The slogan, ‘The heart is there,’ for me it’s not a slogan, my heart is really captive.”

The hostages who attended the global forum of the top world leaders, diplomats, and business people were brought as guests of Israeli President Isaac Herzog in hopes of broadcasting their plight to the world. The specific meeting the hostages spoke at was hosted by Palantir and one of its co-founders, billionaire Peter Thiel. Palantir, the US-based defense and data analytics company, held its first board meeting of 2024 in Tel Aviv in an act of solidarity with the Jewish state — a meeting that led to the signing of a strategic partnership deal with the Defense Ministry.

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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.”

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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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