Sunday, December 3, 2023

Hamas says cannot free captives until Israel-Gaza ceasefire

An official with the Palestinian group Hamas has stated the group that rules Gaza cannot release the Israeli hostages it is holding until a ceasefire is agreed in the continuing conflict, according to Russia’s Kommersant newspaper.

The newspaper quoted an official called Abu Hamid as saying on Friday that the group needed time to locate all of those who had been taken to Gaza by various Palestinian factions during a Hamas-led attack on Israel on October 7, that prompted the war.

Abu Hamid, a member of a Hamas delegation that arrived in Moscow on Thursday, stated that Hamas announced its intention to release “the civilian prisoners” since the first days of the war.

“Hundreds of citizens and dozens of fighters from various Palestinian factions entered the territories occupied in 1948, and … they captured dozens of people – most of them civilians,” he continued.

“We need time to find them in the Gaza Strip and then release them,” the official added.

Abu Hamid also stressed that the Israeli air raids on Gaza have killed 50 of the captives.

More than 200 captives are being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip after being captured during the Palestinian group’s October 7 onslaught, according to Israel.

Hamas on Monday freed two elderly Israeli civilian women from the besieged enclave following the release of two captives with dual US-Israeli nationality last Friday.

The mediation efforts between the two sides over the captives are led by Egypt and Qatar.

More than 7,000 Palestinians, including at least 2,900 children, have been killed in Israeli attacks targeting Gaza since October 7. More than 1,400 people were killed in the Hamas attack on Israel, which started on October 7 and reportedly ended a day later.

Israel has cut off Gaza’s access to essential supplies, including fuel, as it carries out a bombing campaign that has destroyed entire neighbourhoods and brought humanitarian conditions to breaking point.

Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan has also said there are “no talks” currently taking place between the group and Israel over a potential ceasefire and prisoner exchange.

“There [were] talks and there [were] political efforts to achieve such an arrangement”, he told Al Jazeera, but there are “no talks” amid the intensified Israeli bombardment of Gaza.

Hamdan added Israeli forces are “moving towards the borders of Gaza from different points”.

“It’s clear that they know they have lost … the narrative issue, so they want to cut Gaza from the world in order to commit their crimes in deep silence,” he continued.

“It’s clear they’ve started that [ground invasion], but they’re worried about the consequences, they are worried about what might happen on the ground and they are facing a very strong resistance.”

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