GAZA (Reuters) – The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, released two American hostages from Gaza – a mother and her daughter – for “humanitarian reasons” in response to Qatari mediation efforts in Gaza. Abu Ubaida, the movement’s spokesman, said on Friday.
Hamas says it took about 200 hostages during the deadly attack carried out on October 7 from the Gaza Strip on communities and military bases in southern Israel, part of the largest attack on the country since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.
Hamas said 50 others were being held by other armed groups in the Strip. She said that more than 20 hostages were killed in Israeli air strikes, but did not provide any other details.
Abu Ubaida said that they released the citizens “for humanitarian reasons, and to prove to the American people and the world that the claims of (President Joe) Biden and his fascist administration are false and baseless.”
Israel responded to the hostage crisis and the attack launched by Hamas militants that led to the death of 1,400 Israelis by bombing Gaza with air strikes that killed more than four thousand people, and said that it would work to free the hostages while eliminating Hamas.
It mobilized tanks and forces near the perimeter of the Gaza Strip in preparation for an expected ground invasion, and called on the Palestinians to evacuate northern Gaza, where it says Hamas is holed up.
Israel also said there would be no end to its complete blockade of the Strip unless the Israeli hostages were released.
Among the detainees are women, children, the elderly, and people from other countries working to release them, as well as some Israeli soldiers.
The military wing of Hamas said on October 16 that the non-Israeli kidnappers were “guests” and would be released “when conditions on the ground allow.”
Hamas proposed that the hostages be exchanged for six thousand Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons, but Israel is unlikely to agree to this in light of a state of war.
Hamas released a video of Mia Schem, a 21-year-old French-Israeli woman, who was captured during a dance party. She appeared in the video in an unknown location, receiving treatment for an injury to her arm at the hands of an unknown medical worker.
Concern about people being transferred to Gaza complicates Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledged goal of eliminating Hamas while adhering to the age-old principle of leaving no one behind.
In 2011, Israel exchanged hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in order to release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who had been detained for five years.
That kind of exchange — which some Israelis have criticized as too unbalanced — now seems impossible as a country torn apart by past hostage crises deals with what appears to be its most difficult yet.
American and British officials confirmed that they are working with Qatar to secure the release of hostages, including their citizens, held in Gaza.
Other countries that have said their citizens are being detained include Thailand, Argentina, Germany, France and Portugal.
(Reporting by Enas Al-Ashry in Cairo and Nidal Al-Mughrabi in Gaza – Prepared by Muhammad for the Arab Bulletin) Writing by Michael Georgi. Edited by Hugh Lawson, Diane Craft and Alistair Bell
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