Hamas’s Delay in Releasing Second Group of Hostages Threatens to End Temporary Truce
Jerusalem, 25 November, 2023 (TPS) -- Hamas delayed on Saturday the release of 13 additional hostages from the Gaza Strip after accusing Israel of violating the terms of a four-day ceasefire deal. Israeli security sources said the military’s ground offensive in Gaza would resume if the captives were not freed by midnight.
The Israeli hostages were due to be released at 4:00 p.m.
A Hamas official had told AFP that the handover of a second batch of Israeli women and children to the Red Cross had begun.
However, the terror group’s “military” wing subsequently said the exchange was being delayed until Israel “adheres to the terms of the agreement related to the entry of aid trucks into the northern Gaza Strip and due to failure to adhere to the agreed-upon standards for releasing [Palestinian security] prisoners.”
Meanwhile, Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas official in Lebanon told the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen channel that “there is an effort to resolve the issues.”
With a disarray between Hamas’s leadership in Gaza and outside the Strip, the credibility of the remarks weren’t clear.
A senior official in Jerusalem had attributed the delay to a “technical matter” but security sources later said the military’s ground offensive in Gaza would recommence if the captives were not freed by midnight.
A temporary four-day ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas terrorist organization went into effect at 7 a.m. on Friday.
As part of the deal approved by the Israeli Cabinet on Wednesday, Hamas is to release 12 to 13 hostages each day of the truce. The release of every additional 10 hostages will result in one additional day in the pause in combat.
Under the agreement, the Israel Defense Forces is to refrain from using surveillance drones in Gaza for six hours each day of the ceasefire. Israel will also allow fuel to enter the Strip during that time and dramatically increase the volume of goods permitted into the enclave.
Over the past two days, some 200 trucks carrying humanitarian aid have entered Gaza from Sinai, with more than 50 of them designated for the northern part of the Strip.
On Saturday, the Israel Defense Ministry’s Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) unit announced that four tankers of fuel and four tankers of cooking gas had entered Gaza from Egypt through the Rafah crossing.
Israel also agreed to commute the sentences of at least 150 female and teenage Palestinian security prisoners, or three terrorists for every hostage that is released.
On Friday, Jerusalem freed 39 Palestinian terrorists from Israeli jails.
The Israel Prison Service said on Saturday it had received a list of 42 additional Palestinian security prisoners to be released in accordance with the deal. Hamas had been expected to release 14 hostages instead of 13, and so, following the agreed-upon 3:1 ratio, 42 terrorists were named on the list instead of 39.
The first group of 13 Israeli women and children was released on Friday as part of the ceasefire deal, 49 days after Hamas terrorists kidnapped them and some 230 others during the Oct. 7 massacre of 1,200 people in the northwestern Negev.
The Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem identified the hostages released on Friday as Doron Katz-Asher, 34, Aviv Asher, 2, and Raz Asher, 4; Danielle Aloni, 45, and Emilia Aloni, 5; Ruth Monder, 78, Keren Monder, 54, and Ohad Monder, 9; Adina Moshe, 72; Channa Katzir, 76; Margalit Mozes, 77; Chana Perry, 79; and Yaffa Adar, 85.
In a separate deal, Egypt announced Friday that it had successfully negotiated the release of 10 Thai nationals and one Filipino who were abducted during Hamas’s Oct. 7 onslaught.
At least 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on Oct. 7. Another 240 men, women, children and soldiers were taken back to Gaza as hostages. Some people remain unaccounted for as Israeli authorities continue to identify bodies and search for human remains.