Hamas releases 2 Israeli hostages as more aid reaches Gaza

Xinhua | Updated: 2023-10-24 09:42
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A combination picture shows Nurit Cooper (left) and Yocheved Lifshitz, who were held as hostages by Palestinian Hamas militants. Hostages and missing families forum/Handout via REUTERS

GAZA/JERUSALEM -- The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) released two elderly Israeli women held hostage in Gaza on Monday, as more planes carrying humanitarian aid landed at Egypt's al-Arish Airport in North Sinai, waiting to be sent into war-torn Gaza.

As Israel's airstrikes on Gaza and its preparations for a possible ground invasion of the Palestinian enclave persisted, Lebanon's Shiite military group Hezbollah and Israel clashed more along the border, raising fears of a regional escalation of the conflict.


A man walks by posters showing information of Israeli captives in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct 17, 2023. [Photo/Xinhua]

Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, said Monday in a statement that it has freed two more hostages for "humanitarian reasons" through "Egyptian-Qatari mediation."

It is the second time that Hamas has released some of the hostages it took on Oct. 7 after releasing two American hostages on Friday.

An Israeli government official confirmed the release of the two Israelis, who arrived at the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, adding that an Israeli team was on its way to meet them.

Israel's state-owned Kan TV news identified the two women as Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, and Nurit Cooper, 79. Yocheved's husband, Oded Lifshitz, an 83-year-old journalist, was kidnapped with his wife and is still being held by Hamas.

Earlier on Monday, Palestinian sources said Hamas plans to release some foreign hostages captured in Gaza following "intense mediation efforts made by Qatar, Egypt and the United Nations."

In a briefing to reporters, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Spokesman Daniel Hagari said the military "has been actively involved in operational and intelligence efforts to secure the release of all the hostages," while neither confirming nor denying reports on Hamas' hostage-release plan.

Hagari confirmed that the number of hostages in Gaza now stands at 222, adding they include Israelis, foreign nationals, women, children, and the elderly.

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