Hamas releases 16 hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners

Jerusalem (AFP) – Hamas released 16 hostages on Wednesday evening in the latest exchange of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel under the current situation. Gaza truce While international mediators are rushing to reach another extension to allow more exchanges and prolong the cessation of the Israeli air and ground attack.

The Israeli army said that a group of 10 Israeli women and children and four Thai citizens were returned to Israel, where they were taken to hospitals to be reunited with their families. Earlier, Hamas released two Russian-Israeli women in a separate statement. Israel is scheduled to release 30 Palestinian prisoners in return.

Negotiators were working to hammer out details on extending the truce beyond its deadline set early Thursday. The talks appear to be getting more difficult with the release of most of the women and children held by Hamas, and the militants are expected to seek the release of a larger number in exchange for the release of men and soldiers.

Palestinian Fayrouz Salama is welcomed after Israel released her from prison in the West Bank city of Ramallah, early Wednesday, November 29, 2023. Hamas and Israel released more hostages and prisoners under the terms of a fragile ceasefire that has long held. Day five, Tuesday. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

International pressure has mounted for the ceasefire to continue for as long as possible after nearly eight weeks of Israeli bombing and ground campaign in Gaza that killed thousands of Palestinians, displaced three-quarters of the population of 2.3 million people and led to a humanitarian crisis. . Israel welcomed Dozens of hostages released In recent days, it says it will maintain the truce if Hamas continues to release prisoners.

However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed on Wednesday that Israel would resume its campaign to eliminate Hamas, which has ruled Gaza for 16 years and is coordinating the campaign. The deadly attack on Israel that sparked the war.

He asked: “After exhausting this stage of returning the kidnapped people, will Israel return to fighting?” So my answer is an unequivocal yes.” “There is no way not to return to the fight until the end.”

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I’ve spoken before Visit the area US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called for pressure to extend the truce and release the hostages. Blinken arrived in Israel late Wednesday.

In the West Bank, Israeli forces killed two Palestinian boys, one 8-year-old and the other 15-year-old, during a raid in the city of Jenin, Palestinian health officials said. Security footage showed a group of boys running in the street, except for one who fell to the ground bleeding.

The Israeli army said that its forces opened fire on people who threw explosives at them, but did not specify whether this referred to the boys who were not seen throwing anything. Separately, the army said that its forces killed two Islamic Jihad activists during the raid.

So far, the Israeli attack on Gaza appears to have had little impact on Hamas’ rule, as evidenced by its ability to conduct complex negotiations, impose ceasefires between other armed groups, and organize hostage releases. Among them are Hamas leaders Yahya Al-Sanwar They will likely be moved south.

With Israeli forces in control of much of northern Gaza, a ground invasion south will likely bring an escalating cost in Palestinian lives and destruction.

Most of Gaza’s population is now concentrated in the south. The truce provided them with relief from the bombing, but the days of calm passed in a frantic rush to obtain the necessary supplies to feed their families as aid entered in larger quantities, but it is still insufficient.

The United States, Israel’s main ally, has shown greater secrecy about the impact of the war in Gaza. The Biden administration has informed Israel that if it launches an attack in the south, It has to work much more precisely.

Israeli soldiers work on a tank near the border with the Gaza Strip, southern Israel, Tuesday, November 28, 2023. On the fifth day of a temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.  (AP Photo/Ohad Zwegenberg)

Israeli soldiers work on a tank near the border with the Gaza Strip, southern Israel, Tuesday, November 28, 2023. On the fifth day of a temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwegenberg)

A Palestinian man collects his belongings southeast of Gaza City on Tuesday, November 28, 2023. On the fifth day of the temporary ceasefire between Hamas and Israel.  (AP Photo/Adel Hanna)

A Palestinian man collects his belongings southeast of Gaza City on Tuesday, November 28, 2023. On the fifth day of the temporary ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. (AP Photo/Adel Hanna)

The Israeli hostage dilemma

The plight of the prisoners and the shock caused by the October 7 attack in southern Israel has affected me Mobilizing Israeli support for the war. But Netanyahu is under pressure to repatriate the hostages and may find it difficult to resume the offensive if more hostages are likely to be released.

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Since the start of the initial truce on Friday, both sides have released women and children. Israeli officials say militants in Gaza are still holding about 20 women, and they will be released within a few days if exchanges continue at the current rate.

After that, keeping the truce going depends on tougher negotiations over the release of some 126 men Israel says are being held — including dozens of soldiers.

As for men — especially soldiers — Hamas is expected to push for a similar release of Palestinian men or high-profile detainees, a deal that Israel may resist.

An Israeli official involved in the hostage negotiations said that talks on a further extension for the release of male civilians and soldiers were still preliminary, and that an agreement would not be considered until after all the women and children had left. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because negotiations are still ongoing.

With their release on Wednesday, a total of 73 Israelis, including dual nationals, were released during the six-day truce, most of them He looks good physically but is shaky. Another 24 hostages, 23 Thais and one Filipino, were also released. Before the ceasefire, Hamas released four hostages, and the Israeli army rescued one. Two other bodies were found in Gaza.

This handout photo provided by GPO shows Gabriella and Mia Limberg, back, speaking with family from a meeting point in Israeli territory after their release by Hamas, Tuesday, November 28, 2023. (GPO/Handout via AP)

This handout photo provided by GPO shows Gabriella and Mia Limberg, back, speaking with family from a meeting point in Israeli territory after their release by Hamas, Tuesday, November 28, 2023. (GPO/Handout via AP)

Ahmed Salaima, 14, center, a Palestinian prisoner released by Israel, is hugged by his father as he arrives at his home in the Ras al-Amoud neighborhood of East Jerusalem, Tuesday, November 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Ahmed Salaima, 14, center, a Palestinian prisoner released by Israel, is hugged by his father as he arrives at his home in the Ras al-Amoud neighborhood of East Jerusalem, Tuesday, November 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

So far, most of the 180 Palestinians released from Israeli prisons have been teenagers accused of throwing stones and Molotov cocktails during confrontations with Israeli forces. Many of them were women who had been convicted by Israeli military courts of attempting to attack soldiers.

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Palestinians celebrated the release of people they see as having resisted Israel’s decades-long military occupation of lands where they want to establish their future state.

The war began with a Hamas attack that killed more than 1,200 people, most of them civilians. The militants kidnapped about 240 people to Gaza, including infants, children, women, soldiers, the elderly and Thai farm workers.

The Israeli bombing and ground invasion of the Gaza Strip led to the deaths of more than 13,300 Palestinians, nearly two-thirds of whom were women and minors, according to the report. The Ministry of Health in the Hamas-controlled Gaza StripWhich does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

The death toll is likely much higher, as officials have been updating the number intermittently since November 11 due to… Collapse of services in the north. The ministry says thousands of other people are missing and feared dead under the rubble.

Israel says 77 of its soldiers were killed in the ground attack. It claims to have killed thousands of militants, without providing evidence.

A tense calm in Gaza

For Palestinians in Gaza, the calm of the truce has been overshadowed by the search for aid and the terror as they see the extent of the destruction.

In the north, residents described entire residential buildings as being leveled in Gaza City and its surrounding areas. Muhammad Matar (29 years old), a resident of Gaza City, who along with other volunteers searches for those killed under the rubble or left in the streets, said that the smell of decomposing bodies trapped under collapsed buildings fills the air.

In the south, a truce allowed More aid will be delivered From Egypt, up to 200 trucks per day. But aid officials say this is not enough, since most of them now depend on foreign aid. Overcrowded shelters run by the United Nations are housing more than a million displaced people, many of whom are sleeping outside in cold and rainy weather.

At the Rafah distribution center, large crowds line up daily to get bags of flour, but supplies are quickly running out.

“Every day, we come here… spending money on transportation to get here, only to return home without carrying anything,” said Nawal Abu Namous, one of the women in the class.

The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that about 111,000 people suffer from respiratory infections and 75,000 suffer from diarrhea, more than half of whom are under the age of five.

“We want this war to stop,” said Omar Al-Daraawi, who works in the crowded Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in central Gaza.

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Jeffrey reported from Cairo and Liedman from Jerusalem.

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Complete AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.

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