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In Hamas video, US-Israeli hostage says living in Gaza 'hell'

Demonstrators carry a poster of Hersh Goldberg-Polin at a rally in Jerusalem urging action to rescue hostages remaining in Gaza
— Gaza Strip (Palestinian Territories) (AFP)

Palestinian militant group Hamas released Wednesday a video of an Israeli-American man held hostage in Gaza who is seen alive and saying that the captives are living "in hell".

He identifies himself as Hersh Goldberg-Polin, 23, one of the hostages abducted from the Nova music festival in southern Israel during the Hamas attack on October 7.

His parents said in a statement they were "relieved to see him alive" but worried for his wellbeing.

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum campaign group said the family had "given permission for the video of their son Hersh" to be broadcast by the media.

Goldberg-Polin was seriously wounded during his capture and the video shows him missing a hand.

"I went to hang out with my friends, and instead, I found myself fighting for my life with severe injuries all over my body," he says in the video, the authenticity of which AFP has not been able to independently verify.

It was unclear when or where the video was taken, though Goldberg-Polin mentions being held hostage "for almost 200 days". The Israel-Hamas war hit the 200-day mark on Tuesday.

Posted on Hamas's official Telegram account, the footage shows Goldberg-Polin, likely speaking under duress, criticising Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's handling of the crisis and the military's failed attempts to bring the hostages home.

In an apparent reference to Jewish Passover, which began this week, Goldberg-Polin says: "Netanyahu and members of the Israeli government, while you sit and have holiday meals with your families, think of us, the hostages, who are still here in hell".

He urges them to "bring us home now".

- 'Stay strong, survive' -

He says the captives have been living "under the ground without water, without food, without sun, without the medical care that I need so much for a long, long time".

Goldberg-Polin's mother has been campaigning for his return and met Pope Francis at the Vatican last year, where she appealed for help.

"I know you are doing everything for me to return home as soon as possible," Goldberg-Polin says in the video, addressing his family.

"I need you to stay strong for me and not stop fighting until I, and each and every one of the hostages, return home safely."

In a statement late on Wednesday his parents Rachel Goldberg-Polin and Jon Polin said "seeing the video of Hersh today is overwhelming".

"We are relieved to see him alive but we are also concerned about his health and wellbeing as well as that of all the other hostages and all of those suffering in this region," they said.

They urged parties negotiating a potential ceasefire and the return of the hostages to "be brave, lean in, seize this moment and get a deal done to reunite all of us with our loved ones and end the suffering in this region".

"Hersh, we heard your voice today for the first time in 201 days and if you can hear us, we are telling you, we love you, stay strong, survive," they said.

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum group also appealed for the return of the hostages.

"Hersh's cry is the collective cry of all the hostages -- their time is rapidly running out," it said in a statement.

"With each passing day, the fear of losing more innocent lives grows stronger."

Late on Wednesday dozens of demonstrators rallied outside Netanyahu's official residence in Jerusalem, holding signs that read: "Bring them home now."

Israel estimates 129 of the roughly 250 people abducted during the Hamas attack on October 7 remain in Gaza, including 34 who the military says are dead.

The Hamas attack resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

It triggered the deadliest war between Hamas and Israel, with Netanyahu vowing to eliminate the militant group that rules Gaza.

In Israel's blistering military offensive in Gaza, 34,262 people have been killed, most of them women and children, according to the territory's health ministry.