Monday, December 4, 2023

Hamas says to free some foreign hostages within days

The armed wing of the Palestinian group Hamas has announced that it will release some foreign hostages from the Gaza Strip in the coming days, without offering more specifics.

Qassam Brigades spokesman Abu Obeida announced the decision in a video address on Tuesday, in which he also promised to turn Gaza into a “graveyard” and a “quagmire” for Israeli forces amid increased ground operations.

“We have informed intermediaries that we will release a certain number of foreigners in the next few days,” Obeida said.

“The enemy began its ground manoeuvres and has advanced to several points including northwest of Beit Lahiya, northwest of Gaza city, and in the vicinity of the Beit Hanoun border crossing.”

“Our forces have worked and are still working to block and defend [Gaza] from the enemy’s attacks in all of their locations,” he added.

“Our fighters have attacked the enemy’s tanks and vehicles with various kinds of anti-armour weaponry. They have also used short-range missiles to attack enemy targets,” the spokesperson continued.

More than 230 people, including Israeli soldiers and civilians, as well as foreigners from numerous countries, were taken captive by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups during a deadly assault on Israel on October 7 that Israeli authorities say killed more than 1,400 people, most of them civilians.

Israel, human rights groups and the United Nations have called for the immediate release of the hostages, and those with loved ones held captive have called on the Israeli government to secure their release.

Five hostages have been released thus far, most of them following negotiations through diplomatic channels with assistance from countries including Qatar and Egypt, and one after a ground raid by Israeli troops inside Gaza.

On Tuesday, Israeli families of those killed on October 7 called on the International Criminal Court (ICC), the jurisdiction of which Israel does not recognise, to investigate the killings and abductions.

Tel Aviv-based international lawyer Yael Vias Gvirsman, representing the families of more than 34 victims, filed an “article 15 communication” with the ICC, urging ICC prosecutor Karim Khan to focus an ongoing investigation into alleged crimes within its jurisdiction on the Hamas attack.

The news outlet Reuters confirmed that the ICC prosecutor’s office has received the filing and is assessing the request.

Israel is not a party to the ICC, whose jurisdiction it has refused to recognise. Palestinian authorities joined the court in 2015 and were granted UN observer state status, allowing the ICC to begin a continuing investigation into alleged crimes committed on Palestinian territory and by Palestinians on Israeli territory.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called that decision a “perversion of justice” at the time.

During a visit to the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza over the weekend, Khan said that impeding aid access to Gaza could constitute a crime under ICC jurisdiction.

He also added that he had tried to enter Gaza and Israel to meet with families of victims, but had not been able to do so.

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