High stakes hostage negotiations with Hamas
Reports say Hamas is considering releasing 50 hostages who are dual citizens. There are expectations that about 25% of those taken could be released today… It comes after the terror group released another 2 people seized in Israel during their 7 October attack after talks facilitated by officials from Qatar and Egypt. The Israeli peace activists – 85yo Yocheved Lifshitz and 79yo Nurit Cooper – were released for “humanitarian reasons”, but their husbands continue to be held at an unknown location in Gaza. The women’s release means 4 hostages have been freed, so the focus remains on getting the other 220 hostages back.
What have the released hostages said?
Lifshitz, the 85yo, said she “went through hell” and described how the 7 October attackers “didn’t care if they were young or old”. The family of 2 American women released by Hamas on Friday has also spoken for the first time. Ayelet Sella, the cousin of Judith Raanan and her daughter Natalie, says they’re relieved but won’t celebrate until all hostages – including their other family members – are free. Ayelet says getting them home “should be the only thing on the table at the moment” for the Israeli government – and that’s an opinion US officials share… They’ve doubled down on their calls for Israel to delay its ground invasion into Gaza but say a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas shouldn’t be considered until all the hostages are safe – the thinking is that’s the best way to keep the pressure on Hamas. The United Nations has a different view – its officials say a ceasefire is essential to get Gazans the aid they need.
So what’s the situation like on the ground?
The Hamas-run Health Ministry says the death toll in Gaza is now more than 5,700 people, with a record 704 killed in the last 24 hours. About 40% of the dead are children, according to the Health Ministry. To put that in perspective, the last time Israel invaded Gaza during the 2014 war, reports say 1,462 Palestinian civilians were killed. Agencies say the Palestinian toll is likely to rise, particularly as civilians return to their homes in the north – against advice – because of a lack of shelter and supplies in the south of the territory. In Israel, officials say more than 1,400 are dead – most were killed in the initial Hamas attack earlier this month. As for where things are landing today, the UN agency in Gaza said that Tuesday’s planned aid trucks didn’t arrive, and that if no fuel turns up their operations could halt within the day…
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