update deskIsrael at War

Eight hostages return to Israel from Gaza Strip

The group was handed over by Hamas to the International Committee of the Red Cross and crossed into Israel from Egypt.

An Israeli military helicopter with released hostage Mia Shem arrives at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Nov. 30, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
An Israeli military helicopter with released hostage Mia Shem arrives at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Nov. 30, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

Hamas freed six more Israelis from captivity in the Gaza Strip shortly before midnight on Thursday, bringing the total number of hostages released on the seventh day of the ceasefire to eight.

The group was handed over by Hamas to the International Committee of the Red Cross and crossed into Israeli territory from Egypt, Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said.

“IDF and Shin Bet forces are now accompanying the six hostages who have returned,” announced Hagari on X, adding: “Our forces will escort them until they reach their families in the hospitals.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office identified the hostages released on Thursday night as siblings Aisha Ziyadne, 17, and Bilal Ziyadne, 18, Shani Goren, 29, Sapir Cohen, 29, Ilana Gritzewsky Kimchi, 30, and Nili Margalit, 41.

On Thursday afternoon, Hamas had already released Mia Shem, 21, and Amit Soussana, 40. Shem, a dual French citizen, appeared in a hostage video released by Hamas on Oct. 16.

The hostages were transported to hospitals from the Hatzerim Air Force Base near Beersheva.

The Israelis freed on Thursday were transferred to the Red Cross at various times and locations because they were being held by terrorists across the coastal enclave, an Israeli official previously told CNN.

Eighty-one Israelis have now been freed since the initial four-day ceasefire started on Nov. 24, along with 23 Thais and one Filipino.

During a press briefing earlier on Thursday, Hagari noted that overnight, the IDF “insisted” on carrying out the ceasefire-for-hostages arrangement with Hamas.

“We will do so tomorrow as well. The mediators, Qatar and Egypt, are also obligated to carry out the deal so that the ceasefire can continue,” he said.

“The IDF is ready to resume the fighting. We are prepared to attack at any hour, tonight as well,” warned Hagari.

Overnight Wednesday, Hamas initially released a list of just seven live hostages and three bodies. Israel threatened to renew the fighting in Gaza unless a revised list was received by 7 a.m. Thursday.

A revised list was submitted 20 minutes before the deadline.

An Israeli official told Ynet that the overnight negotiations were “very difficult and nerve-wracking.”

“There was a fight for every name. We are entering very difficult times. Hamas will try to manipulate, intimidate and spread disinformation. We were one step away from canceling the deal,” the official said.

Hamas is reportedly seeking to extend the truce another day and release more hostages on Friday, AFP reported just hours before the latest extension was due to expire.

“Mediators are currently making strong, intense and continuous efforts for an additional day in the truce and then working to extend it again for other days,” a source close to the terror group told the wire service.

Approximately 141 Israelis and foreigners are still in Hamas captivity, including Kfir Bibas, who was 9 months old when he was taken hostage on Oct. 7 along with his parents and 4-year-old brother Ariel.

On Wednesday, the “military” wing of Hamas claimed that Kfir, Ariel and their mother, Shiri, 32, had died in Gaza, the Hamas- and Palestinian Islamic Jihad-affiliated Quds News Network reported.

Ahead of Thursday’s hostage release, Hamas released a propaganda video showing father Yarden Bibas after being told his wife and young sons had died.

The IDF denounced the propaganda video as “psychological terror” on Thursday, noting that Hamas’s claim is still under investigation.

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