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Israel & Palestine

US Confident At Least One Citizen Among Next Hostage Release

user avatar Author: Editors Desk Source: Bloomberg
November 26, 2023 at 10:30
A released hostage reunites with her father in Israel, Nov. 26.Source: The Israeli Army/AP
A released hostage reunites with her father in Israel, Nov. 26.Source: The Israeli Army/AP

Additional humanitarian aid making its way to Gaza Strip

At least one American citizen is likely to be freed on Sunday as part of a third day of hostage releases from Gaza, said the US national security adviser.

Jake Sullivan spoke as Israel and Hamas prepared for a third day of hostage exchanges. That followed a last-minute dispute on Saturday that threatened to derail a fragile truce. Talks continued to extend the four-day cease-fire, and more humanitarian aid trucks headed into Gaza, including northern areas.

“We do have reason to believe that there will be an American released today, but let’s wait and see what actually happens,” Sullivan said on CBS’s Face the Nation. “Because of course we are dealing with a terrorist group here and we can’t immediately trust. We have to verify.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said earlier it had received a list of names of abductees whom Hamas is due to hand over later in the day. Since Friday, the Palestinian militant group that governs Gaza has freed 26 Israelis, some with dual nationalities, as well as 14 Thai nationals and one Filipino citizen.

The releases made in several stages are key to a deal brokered by Qatar and Egypt that’s brought a pause of fighting in the more than six-week war, and allowed the flow of further humanitarian aid into besieged Gaza. As part of the pact, Israel has so far released 78 Palestinian women and children held in its prisons.

Separately on Sunday, Hamas said it had released a dual Israeli-Russian hostage “in response to the efforts of Russian President Vladimir Putin and in appreciation of the Russian position in support of the Palestinian cause.”

Lolwah Al-Khater, Qatar’s minister of state for international cooperation, told Al-Jazeera TV that work continues at the political level to extend the current truce, now into its third day.
 

ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN-CONFLICT-HOSTAGES
A vehicle carrying Israeli hostages released by Hamas arrives at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan.Source: AFP/Getty Images


Saturday’s releases came hours later than expected after Hamas said Israel has violated the terms of the truce — accusations it denied. The snag underscored the shakiness of the agreement between Israel and Hamas, which the US and European Union designate a terrorist group. The militants infiltrated Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and abducting about 240 others.
 

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An International Red Cross vehicle reportedly carrying hostages released by Hamas drives towards the Rafah border point with Egypt, ahead of their transfer to Israel on Nov. 25.Photographer: Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images


Israel has unleashed its military might on the small, crowded Gaza Strip since the attack. At least 15,000 people have been killed, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. The four-day truce is contingent on Hamas releasing a total of 50 hostages and Israel freeing 150 women and minors held in the nation’s prisons.


 

 


The humanitarian pause in Gaza has “largely held” since going into effect Friday, allowing the United Nations to boost the delivery of crucial aid into and across Gaza, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in an update.

All the same, the agency said many people still have no food - or fuel to cook it with - and bakeries aren’t operating, raising concerns about nutrition, especially in northern Gaza, the focus of Israel’s ground offensive. It also reported that Israeli forces had arrested some Palestinians traveling along the Israeli-designated safe “corridor” from the territory’s north to south.

Israel’s defense forces warned on Sunday that civilians in Gaza are prohibited from entering the sea or to approach within 1 kilometer of the border with Israel.

The defense ministry said Israel’s army has seized about 5 million shekels ($1.3 million) from Hamas during the ground invasion. Iraqi, Jordanian and US currencies have been found primarily in Hamas strongholds and suspects’ homes.
 

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Palestinian prisoners released from Israeli jails, on Nov. 26.Photographer: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images


At least seven Palestinians were killed in a missile attack by Israeli forces on the occupied West Bank, the Voice of Palestine radio station reported. Israel’s army hasn’t commented on the events.

Read more: The West Bank Is Being Reshaped Along With Gaza Post-Oct. 7

US President Joe Biden earlier Saturday spoke with Qatari leaders “on potential holdups to the deal and mechanisms to resolve them,” said Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council.
 

Israel and Hamas Agree to Short Truce

Hamas agreed to free 50 hostages from Gaza in return for the release of 150 Palestinian prisoners and a four-day cease-fire with Israel, starting Nov. 24
 

Sources: Institute for the Study of War and AEI's Critical Threats Project; Copernicus Sentinel-2; Maxar Technologies Note: Israeli campaign as of November 23, 2023
Sources: Institute for the Study of War and AEI's Critical Threats Project; Copernicus Sentinel-2; Maxar Technologies
Note: Israeli campaign as of November 23, 2023

 


Biden, who said the first day of hostage releases had “gone well,” was kept informed of developments Saturday and, after his call with the Qatari leaders, senior US officials were in “regular contact with the Israelis, Qataris, and Egyptians to overcome hurdles,” Watson said.

Biden is expected to speak with Netanyahu on Sunday, Sullivan said on NBC. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to visit Israel this week, a fourth visit since Oct. 7, according to local media.


 


The Qatari minister, who visited the Rafah border crossing on Sunday, said the pace of aid to the strip still isn’t enough to meet the level of need. Mahmoud al-Mordawi, a senior Hamas official in Beirut, says 300 trucks should enter northern Gaza Sunday and Monday to make up for shortfalls in recent days.

— With assistance from Gregory Korte

(Updates with Russian citizen, other details from sixth paragraph.)

 

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