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Hamas captured 11 Thai citizens (Reuters 2023-10-09, The Times of Israel 2023-10-10).

I understand that in the fog of war, Hamas may inadvertently have captured citizens from neutral countries.

I also understand that Hamas might want to hold hostage citizens from the US and other insufficiently pro-Palestinian/Hamas countries like France or Germany.

But why does Hamas hold hostage citizens from a neutral country like Thailand?

I understand that in a war, the logistics of releasing hostages might take a little work. (On 2023-10-20, Hamas released two Israeli-American hostages before any other hostages. So, it does not seem that releasing hostages is impossible.)

But why does Hamas not at least release a statement pledging to release the Thais at the earliest possible opportunity?

Hamas seems to have a pretty good public relations/social media team pumping out videos, images, and statements. So it wouldn't seem to be too much additional work to issue a statement about the fate of the captured Thai citizens.

To me, Hamas's failure to do so is foolish because it tends to confirm to many around the world or at least in Thailand that Hamas is indeed a terrorist organization.


The figure has now risen to 14 (Reuters 2023-10-11).

Now 17 (Thai government, 2023-10-16).

Now 19 (Bangkok Post, 2023-10-21).

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    IDK what Hamas guys are thinking, but possibly they consider those Thai agricultural workers as collaborators with the occupation. They did kill a bunch of them too. Oct 11, 2023 at 5:41
  • If anything, Israeli governments of the past decade or so actually considered the Thai gov't positions as too pro-Palestinian, although that didn't seem to have affected the Israeli visa policies toward the Thai workers. Oct 11, 2023 at 5:52
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    Voting not to close - This is a good question. And even if the answer may not be clear right now, it should be apparent soon enough when the neutral countries engage with Hamas to secure the release of the prisoners. If others are concerned that right now we will only get opinionated answers, then the right approach would be to report those answers, instead of trying to close the question itself.
    – sfxedit
    Oct 11, 2023 at 11:37
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    May be too early to know much (which motivated the close votes). But surely, at some point, the situation will become clearer. What will be Hamas' position will then surely be of interest. Oct 11, 2023 at 16:48

3 Answers 3

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FWTW, you want to know what Hamas said about this, there's a paraphrased report in which they say that they are ready to release the foreign, non-Israeli hostages, which were "swept up in the fighting" but that "conditions have to be right", not amidst Israeli round-the-clock bombings.

NBC has it as:

Hamas is willing to allow the unconditional release of foreign nationals kidnapped during its Oct. 7 attack on Israel, a spokesman for the militant group said today.

Abu Abetta said in a video that Hamas did not verify their identities during the capture, but have since recognized them as foreign nationals and is treating them as guests.

Hamas is treating Israelis being held captive as parties to the conflict.

There's a longer video that goes with that though, which also says that Hamas only promised to release foreigners when "field conditions are right".

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The point of terrorism is to create generalized fear; such fear is leverage against the targeted state. Offering to release citizens of neutral states would be a reasonable action that would generate good will, sure, but appearing as reasonable and good-natured would only serve to reduce generalized fear. That is precisely what terrorists do not want. Holding citizens of neutral states creates fear and anxiety in those states, which will turn around and put pressure on the target state to somehow resolve the issue.

Terrorism is a bit like that old apocryphal adage about going to prison: if you're not big or tough or connected then you have to convince everyone you're bat-sh!t crazy, and get what passes for respect that way. This is Hamas' bat-sh!t crazy moment, where they're demonstrating they have no limits unless they get what they want, where what they want is respect. Don't expect them to take the reasoning high-road.

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    @user103496 How would you describe them (taking into account mass bombing of civilians, indiscriminative killing of everything that moves, capturing hostages, killing civilians while the sleep)? An insane lunatic who kills people might think he is a savior of civilization, but it does not mean he is. Anyway, would be waiting for your description. Oct 11, 2023 at 7:49
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    @user103496 Are you saying indiscriminate killing of hundreds of Israeli and Jewish civilians isn't "bat-sh!t crazy" but killing one a Thai worker is? Oct 11, 2023 at 9:15
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    @TedWrigley I think your answer goes in the right direction. Where I think you are wrong is in saying Hamas wants to appear "crazy". It is much more consistent with their common propaganda that they want to appear enraged: an all-encompassing rage that leads them to seek retaliation without any longer making a distinction between friend or foe. "Let everyone feel the hurt we have felt for decades" is the sentence I have heard from supporters of Palestinian terrorism time and again. (Just to be clear: I personally think this is a despicable argument.)
    – ccprog
    Oct 11, 2023 at 14:05
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    @Obie2.0: Hamas didn't do this expecting a military victory. This was psy-ops: Hamas wanted to shame and degrade Israel, to spread fear and anger, and ultimately to provoke Israel into actions that the rest of the world would see as horrifying (which Israel promptly set about doing). They believe this will bring them political support from Palestinians and other Arab nations. The act may be deeply deluded, but it isn't precisely stupid. Oct 11, 2023 at 15:09
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    This question deserves a lot better than some tired generalizations about terrorists. Why Hamas would not release citizens from Israel-supporting countries is clear: they would want to use them to get their respective countries to put pressure on Israel to keep their citizens safe. But the gain with Thailand (if it is indeed neutral) is unclear and assuming that Hamas has no rationality nor method beyond inspiring fear is a good to underestimate them. For all we know, Hamas may release them after negotiations take place, making this all the more speculative. Oct 11, 2023 at 16:44
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In addition to the other answers:

Those foreign hostages put some pressure on Israel to be careful.

The IDF has repeatedly shown that human lives, not even of Israeli citizens or IDF soldiers matter that much once captured, so their value as human shields isn't too great for Hamas. With foreign nationals however, Israel risks (further) strained foreign relations and a drop in imported labor (something that is in need due to the loss of Palestinian laborers).

While these factors may not be that significant, I would consider those arguments.

Also Hamas has pretty much no international relations, so the cost of just not releasing them isn't too high either.

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