Hamas frees eight hostages to Israel as talks seek to extend Gaza truce | Inquirer News

Hamas frees eight hostages to Israel as talks seek to extend Gaza truce

/ 07:09 AM December 01, 2023

Hamas frees eight hostages to Israel

A helicopter carrying hostages released amid a hostages-prisoners swap deal between Hamas and Israel arrives at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Tel Aviv district, Israel, November 30, 2023. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

GAZA/TEL AVIV — Hamas on Thursday released eight Israeli hostages in Gaza under a last-minute truce deal and Israel was expected to free 30 Palestinian prisoners as negotiators sought to extend a ceasefire again.

Two women hostages were released first. Israel identified them as 21-year-old Mia Schem, who was seized at a dance party along with many of the other hostages abducted into Gaza, and 40-year-old Amit Soussana. Schem also holds French nationality.


The Palestinian militant group Hamas then freed a group of six more hostages, transferring them to the Red Cross, the Israeli military said. Television images showed some young women among the group walking toward ambulances once they reached Israeli territory.


The six freed hostages comprised four adults and two teenagers, who are both Bedouin Arab citizens of Israel, according to the Israeli prime minister’s office.

READ: Truce in Israel-Hamas extended by a day, minutes before it was set to expire

While Israel required Hamas to release 10 hostages daily to continue the truce, a Qatari foreign ministry spokesperson said only eight would be released on Thursday, while Israel would release 30 Palestinians.

Israeli officials had signaled openness to accepting eight rather than 10 hostages in Thursday’s release roster. They said that Hamas on Wednesday had released 12 hostages considered Israeli, including two Israeli-Russian women whose liberty the Palestinian faction described as a goodwill gesture to Moscow.

Those two women could be counted as part of Thursday’s batch, Israeli officials suggested. “The framework deal says ‘around 10 (hostages)’ a day,” Foreign Minister Eli Cohen told Israel’s Army Radio, saying Israelis with dual citizenship were considered to fulfill the terms.

Hamas also released four Thai hostages on Wednesday.


READ: Israel-Hamas truce in Gaza extended two days; 11 more hostages freed

Footage aired on Al Jazeera showed the first two women released on Thursday being taken out of a white vehicle surrounded by armed Hamas militants in Gaza City and met by Red Cross officials amid a throng of onlookers.

Later, photos released by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office showed Schem embracing her mother and brother after they were reunited at Hatzerim military base in Israel.

Israel and Hamas agreed to extend their ceasefire for a seventh day while mediators pressed on with talks to extend the truce further to free more hostages and let aid reach Gaza.

Blinken says truce ‘producing results’

The truce has halted the bombing and allowed some humanitarian aid into Gaza after much of the coastal territory of 2.3 million people was reduced to the wasteland in an Israeli campaign in retaliation for a deadly rampage by Hamas militants on October 7.

The armed wing of Hamas claimed responsibility for a deadly shooting in Jerusalem, which Israel called further proof of the need to destroy the militants, although there were no signs of this scuppering the Gaza truce or release of hostages.

READ: Hamas releases third group of hostages, says will seek to extend deal

Mia Schem had appeared in a hostage video released by Hamas in October, which showed her injured arm being treated by an unidentified medical worker.

Her father, David, told Israel’s Channel 12 TV on Thursday that he will not say a word to her when they meet. “I don’t want to ask her questions because I don’t know what she endured.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in Israel during his third visit to the Middle East since the war began, said the truce was “producing results.” US officials said Blinken also told the Israelis to ensure the safety of Palestinian civilians once the war resumes.

Egypt’s state media body said Egyptian and Qatari mediators were working to negotiate a further extension of the truce for two days.

Before Thursday, militants had released 97 hostages during the truce: 70 Israeli women, teenagers and children, each freed in return for three Palestinian women and teenage detainees, plus 27 foreign hostages freed under parallel agreements with their governments.

READ: Hamas frees 1 Filipino, 10 Thais, 13 Israelis from Gaza on first day of truce

Israel had released 210 Palestinian prisoners before Thursday.

With fewer Israeli women and children left in captivity, extending the truce could require setting new terms for the release of Israeli men, including soldiers.

Three killed in Jerusalem attack

Shortly after the last-minute truce agreement, two Palestinian attackers opened fire at a bus stop during morning rush hour at the entrance to Jerusalem, killing at least three people. Both attackers were “neutralized,” police said.

“This event proves again how we must not show weakness, that we must speak to Hamas only through (rifle) scopes, only through war,” said hard-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir at the site of the attack.

Hamas said the attackers were its members, and its armed wing claimed responsibility for the attack in response “to the occupation’s crimes of killing children and women in Gaza.”

READ: 2 Palestinians open fire at Jerusalem bus stop, killing 3 – police

But neither side appeared to treat the attack as an explicit renunciation of the truce. A Palestinian official familiar with the truce talks said its terms did not apply to what he characterized as responses to Israeli attacks in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Israel has sworn to annihilate Hamas, which rules Gaza, in response to the October 7 rampage by the militant group, when Israel says gunmen killed 1,200 people and took 240 hostages.

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Until the truce, Israel bombarded the territory for seven weeks. Palestinian health authorities deemed reliable by the United Nations say more than 15,000 Gazans have been confirmed killed, around 40% of them children. A further 6,500 are missing, many feared still buried under rubble.

TAGS: Ceasefire, Hostage, Israel-Hamas war, truce

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