A secretive Hamas group known as the ‘Shadow Unit’ is likely overseeing the holding of any Israeli or American hostages, putting those held by the group in danger and complicating any attempts at a rescue.
The Shadow Unit, whose existence was only disclosed by Hamas in 2016, is likely in charge of guarding an unknown number of Israeli and international hostages who were captured after the outbreak of hostilities in Israel this month, according to a report in the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ (FDD) Long War Journal.
Joe Truzman, the FDD author behind the report, told Fox News Digital that the group’s involvement in overseeing the hostages will likely complicate efforts by the Israeli government to secure their release.
‘It just complicates matters so much,’ he said.
Truzman noted that the Shadow Unit is one of several specially trained Hamas units, groups that are different from ordinary fighters and whose expertise makes them more difficult for Israeli forces to combat. In the case of hostages, the group’s role in overseeing them would make it more difficult for Israel to run any sort of recovery operation.
‘This is what they do,’ Truzman said, noting that the group’s members are unlikely involved in combat operations or kidnappings and instead focus solely on guarding hostages.
The reason for the development of the unit, according to Truzman, was a need for a way to bargain for the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, who he argued are basically ‘revered’ by Hamas. By having a specially trained unit oversee the hostage operation, Hamas could more successfully engage and negotiate for the release of Palestinian prisoners.
But the volume of prisoners taken in the most recent conflict could also increase the danger for hostages, with Truzman pointing out that the unit is likely unable to care for so many prisoners at once.
‘I’m not quite sure if Hamas knew or fully understood how many hostages they would be able to abduct. … I think they probably didn’t expect this many,’ Truzman said, pointing to the case of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and other prisoners who were likely held by the unit, noting that when they were released from captivity they suffered from multiple health issues.
‘If they had trouble taking care of one guy … I’m not sure they have the capacity to care for every hostage here,’ Truzman said.
Complicating matters further is that it is unknown just how many hostages the group currently holds, with Truzman noting that there are other terrorist groups in the area who have likely taken hostages of their own. That reality makes it hard for Israel and other countries to have an accurate accounting of where their prisoners are, making any rescue attempts or negations more difficult.
While Truzman said that it is possible some Americans are currently held captive by the Shadow Unit, he argued that the group would be more likely to prioritize Israelis, who they believe they could use to bargain with Israel’s government for the release of Palestinians.
However, with Gaza being cut off from many resources and a looming offensive by Israeli forces, the fate of the hostages in the care of the Shadow Unit could remain a mystery.
Some experts have questioned whether that reality has delayed the Israeli offensive, with Israel Defense Forces veteran Aaron Cohen telling Fox News that the operation could be put on hold to allow time for sophisticated hostage rescue attempts.
‘Israel is no junior varsity when it comes to this. They’re masters at the craft, so what they’re doing right now is taking 40 years of experience, and they’re buying as much time as they can to be able to collect actionable intelligence,’ Cohen said Sunday on ‘FOX & Friends.’ ‘The reason why that is critical when it comes to hostages is because you have grandmothers, grandfathers, babies whose parents were murdered in front of them being held up in the air by Hamas. And you’ve got civilians that are essentially placed throughout Gaza in multiple locations.’
‘I just don’t know how this is going to end exactly,’ Truzman said. ‘Are the Israelis going to be able to go in there with ground forces and capture or release the hostages or is this going to be done in another manner … involving negotiations and prisoner swaps?’