Hatem Ali Associated Press The Egyptian press reported that two hostages released by Hamas were arriving at the Rafah crossing, in the south of the Gaza Strip. Pictured here is the town of Rafah, where Palestinians are searching for survivors after an Israeli bombardment on Monday.
The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas said Monday it had freed two women kidnapped during its attack on Israeli territory on October 7; they had since been detained in the Gaza Strip, which he controls. In this territory, more than 5,000 people have been killed since the start of the war 17 days ago, according to the organization.
The spokesperson for Hamas' military wing, Abou Obeida, said in a statement that the two female hostages were released “for pressing humanitarian reasons” through mediation with Qatar and Egypt. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) explained for its part that it had facilitated their release.
This release, which comes three days after that of two American women, was not immediately confirmed by the Israeli authorities.
Israeli media gave the identity of the two women, octogenarians from the kibbutz Nir Oz, Yocheved Lifshitz and Nourit Kuper, taken hostage with their husbands during the bloody Hamas attack on October 7. According to estimates by kibbutz officials, about a quarter of its 400 residents have been killed, kidnapped or are missing.
The Egyptian press indicated that two hostages released by Hamas were arriving at the Rafah crossing, in the south of the Gaza Strip.
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Israel also intensified its strikes on Monday on this small Palestinian territory, where the “catastrophic” situation is pushing several countries to call for a truce in the fighting.
The Israeli army, which is relentlessly bombing the strip of Gaza since October 7, has promised to “annihilate” Hamas. And to do this, she has said, for several days, that she is preparing for a land offensive.
This prospect worries the international community, which fears an escalation of the conflict. Iran, an ally of Hamas, warned that the situation risked becoming “uncontrollable” in the Middle East, transformed into a “powder keg.”
The Islamist movement accused Israel of having “violated eight times the arrangements governing the release operation which had been determined with the mediators so that it could be carried out successfully.”
More than 220 Israeli, foreign or binational hostages have been identified by Israel. They were kidnapped and taken to Gaza by Hamas Islamists in an unprecedented bloody attack on October 7 that sparked a war; Israel shelling from the Gaza Strip.
The United States has at the same time strengthened its military presence in the region. And in Tehran, the head of Russian diplomacy, Sergei Lavrov, judged that this reinforcement ran the risk of an “escalation” of the conflict.
Help in continuous flow?
In the Gaza Strip, a small, poor territory where 2.4 million Palestinians are crowded together, international aid began to arrive in dribs and drabs since Saturday via Egypt. On Monday, a third convoy crossed the border at Rafah, the only exit from the territory not controlled by Israel.
In total, around fifty trucks entered the Gaza Strip in three days, although, according to the UN, at least 100 per day are needed to meet the needs of the population. The UN is also demanding deliveries of fuel, essential for example for hospital generators.
The United States, which has obtained the agreement of Israel and Egypt to allow the aid to pass , announced on Sunday “that there would henceforth be a continuous flow into Gaza of this crucial assistance.”
But the head of European Union diplomacy, Josep Borrell, called for “more aid, faster” as well as a “humanitarian pause” to allow its distribution. The leaders of the 27 could support a call to this effect at their summit at the end of the week, he added.
Stop it -feu
The United States is more circumspect. They reject, according to the State Department, calls for a “ceasefire”, judging that it would primarily benefit Hamas.
France, on the other hand, is in favor of it. On the eve of a Tuesday visit by President Emmanuel Macron to Tel Aviv, she called for a “humanitarian truce” which “could lead to a ceasefire.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin called for “unhindered” access for humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip and a “swift ceasefire.”
And the heads of diplomacy of Russia, Turkey and Iran called to stop “targeting innocent civilians,” in a joint statement also signed by Armenia and Azerbaijan.
320 targets hit by Israel
Because, far from easing, Israeli bombings have intensified in the last 24 hours.
On Monday, the Israeli army announced that it had struck “more than 320 military targets” during the night, including infrastructure Hamas and its ally Islamic Jihad. These two groups are classified as “terrorist” organizations by the United States, Canada, the European Union and Israel.
The raids left more than 70 people dead, according to Hamas, including 17 people killed by a strike on a house in Jabaliya (north).
On October 7, in the middle of Shabbat, the weekly Jewish rest, and on the last day of the Sukkot holiday, hundreds of Hamas fighters infiltrated Israel from Gaza, spreading terror in an attack unprecedented since the creation of State of Israel in 1948.
More than 1,400 people were killed in Israel, most civilians shot, burned or mutilated on the day of the attack, according to authorities. Hamas kidnapped 222 hostages, Israelis and foreigners, according to the army.
On Monday, Hamas claimed that 5,087 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including 2,055 children, had been killed in the Gaza Strip by Israeli bombings that destroyed entire neighborhoods.
These figures were not confirmed. could not be independently verified by AFP.
Since October 15, the Israeli army has been calling on civilians north of the Gaza Strip, where the bombings are most intense, to flee towards the south.
But the strikes also continue to affect the south, close to the Egyptian border, where the displaced are massed by hundreds of thousands.
Two days after the Hamas attack, Israel imposed a “complete siege” on Gaza — already under an Israeli blockade for more than 16 years — by cutting off water supplies , electricity and food.
The humanitarian situation is “catastrophic”, the UN has warned, in this 362 km2 territory where at least 1.4 million Palestinians have fled their homes.