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Hamas says it is ready to release hostages

Wednesday, 18 October 2023, 09:47
Hamas says it is ready to release hostages
Hostage Mia Schem. Photo provided by the woman’s family to The Jerusalem Post

The Palestinian group Hamas has expressed its readiness to release some hostages during negotiations.

Source: NBC News, citing a diplomat, a former US official, a senior Western diplomat and other sources

Quote from NBC: "After days of tense negotiations involving US, Israeli and Qatari officials, Hamas has expressed a willingness to release women and children it holds captive.

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But the group acknowledged that it does not have custody of all the hostages seized in the attack on Israel 10 days ago, a diplomat with knowledge of the talks and a former U.S. official briefed on the matter said." 

Details: A former US official told the publication that some of the hostages are being held by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and others by "random Gaza citizen opportunists".

Hamas is trying to take custody of all the prisoners but claims that it cannot do so under constant bombardment. 

The publication spoke with its sources shortly after a senior Hamas official told NBC that the group was ready to immediately release all civilian hostages – both foreign and Israeli – if Israel stopped its airstrikes on Gaza. 

A Hamas official said the hostages could be released within an hour if Israel met its conditions. He claimed that now there is no safe place for their release.

At the same time, the diplomat with whom the publication spoke emphasised that negotiations on the fate of the hostages have been ongoing since day one. As he said, in the first few days, Hamas insisted on the exchange of prisoners, but they finally accepted that this would not happen. 

Hamas, as noted by the source, insists on keeping any Israeli soldier in captivity, but "appears to have understood that civilians will have to be released without a trade".

"Discussions are ongoing and have been more positive recently, but no breakthrough yet," the diplomat emphasised. 

A former US official said Hamas had not yet decided whether to release male civilians who are Israeli citizens and not holders of dual passports. 

The publication's sources report that Israel, which is preparing for a possible ground invasion of Gaza, stubbornly refuses to exchange prisoners for hostages. 

A senior Western diplomat described the talks as weak: "It’s clear there is a dialogue between Hamas, Qatar and Israel, but ‘negotiations’ is probably an overstatement.

... It’s a channel [of communication – ed.]. Qatar has more leverage than anyone else but not as much as they’d like." 

For reference: On 15 October, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) announced that the confirmed number of Israeli hostages being held by Hamas militants in Gaza is 126 people. 

Background: 

  • On 16 October, Iran's Foreign Ministry said Hamas is potentially ready to release nearly 200 hostages it is holding if Israel stops airstrikes on the Gaza Strip. The terrorist group has not acknowledged making such a proposal.

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