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.
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 the occupation [i.e., Israel] follows the terms of the agreement related to the entry of aid trucks into northern Gaza and due to failure to adhere to the standards for releasing [Palestinian security] prisoners.”
A senior official in Jerusalem had attributed the hold-up to a “technical matter” but security sources later said the IDF’s ground offensive in Gaza would recommence if the captives were not freed by midnight.
A 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 IDF 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 goods 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.
Earlier Saturday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant vowed during a tour of Gaza that IDF troops would not leave the Strip until all of the estimated remaining 225 captives are returned.
“As soon as the military pressure is on, they [Hamas] want a break. When you increase the pressure, they want another break. When you increase more, they are ready to come with an offer, and when you increase even more, they come with an offer that can be accepted,” said Gallant.
“We cannot stop the war until we reach a situation in which we bring all the hostages back,” he said, adding: “Any further negotiations will be under fire. If Hamas wants to discuss another deal, it will be while bombs fall.”
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.