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Hostage families welcome medicine being sent into Gaza to treat Hamas captives and residents

Hostage families welcome medicine being sent into Gaza to treat Hamas captives and residents

A delivery of medicines for dozens of hostages held in Gaza is on its way to the besieged territory as part of the first agreement between Israel and Hamas since a week-long ceasefire in November.

The agreement, which was brokered by Qatar and France, will also see humanitarian aid delivered to Gaza. A senior Hamas official said that for every box of medicine delivered for the hostages, 1,000 boxes would be sent in for Palestinian residents.

After the drugs are transferred from Egypt into Gaza, they will arrive at a hospital in the southern border town of Rafah, where they are set to be divided into batches and then sent on to the hostages via the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Ricardo Grichener is the uncle of Israeli hostage Omer Wenkert, who suffers from colitis. He told The Independent: “I’m optimistic because, after 103 days, as far as we understand, he saw no doctors and received no medicine.”

A chronic digestive condition, colitis normally requires Mr Wenkert to take tablets three times a day. The disease can cause internal bleeding, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and weight loss, among other symptoms.

“Unfortunately, it’s usually triggered by a situation of pressure or from bad nutrition,” said Mr Grichener. “Right now he is probably in some tunnel, under significant pressure. And his diet, as far as we understand, is half of a pita bread per day. So of course he doesn’t have good nutrition.”

Mr Wenkert is one of 45 hostages who are expected to receive medication under the agreement, according to the French presidency.

“We are really hoping that this deal will fly, and that actually we will see some validation of receipt of the medicine,” said Mr Grichener, “because we don’t know his situation and we don’t know if he’s suffering from bleeding or has an infection.”

Israeli hostage Omer Wenkert suffers from colitis and needs to take tablets regularly (The Wenkert family)
Israeli hostage Omer Wenkert suffers from colitis and needs to take tablets regularly (The Wenkert family)

The family said they were approached by Israeli officials and asked to provide a list of Mr Wenkert’s medication, doses and prescription notes. This information was then handed over to France and Qatar, who purchased the medication in Europe.

The medical aid was reportedly delivered to Egypt in diplomatic pouches – a type of container generally used by diplomats that has certain legal protections intended to prevent it from being searched by authorities.

According to those with knowledge of the deal, the families are expecting to receive proof of receipt of the medicines, though they are unsure what form this will take. Mr Grichener is “hopeful” they will be sent a photo of Mr Wenkert.

Former Israeli hostage negotiator Gershon Baskin, who helped secure the release of Gilad Shalit in 2011, told The Independent: “It is an important step, if the medications actually get to the hostages.”

Doha announced the deal earlier this week via a statement to the official Qatar News Agency, announcing that “medicine along with other humanitarian aid is to be delivered to civilians in Gaza ... in exchange for delivering medication needed for Israeli captives in Gaza”. The office of Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed the deal.

Despite the agreement, a significant number of the hostage families remain unsatisfied with the Israeli government’s attempts to secure the release of those left in Gaza. Across Israel over the weekend, some of the demonstrations held to mark the 100th day of the war saw attendees turn against Mr Netanyahu over his handling of the conflict.

“We are worried, and angry, and think that the government, once again, does not think about the abductees. They want to produce fake victory images,” said Aviram Meir, uncle of Israeli hostage Almog Meir Jan.

The latest Israel-Hamas conflict was triggered by Hamas’s shock attack inside southern Israel on 7 October, which saw around 1,200 killed and around 240 taken back into Gaza as hostages. In response, Israel has vowed to eradicate Hamas and has launched airstrikes and ground operations inside Hamas-controlled Gaza, backed up by a blockade. Health officials in Gaza say more than 24,000 people have been killed in the three-month conflict.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said on Wednesday that 163 bodies had been brought to the territory’s remaining functioning hospitals in the past 24 hours, as well as 350 wounded people, as Israel stepped up its assault on the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza. Jordan also accused Israel of badly damaging its field hospital in the city with nearby shelling.