Israel-Hamas Crisis: No Ceasefire, Hostage Release Before Friday

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  • As Israeli forces hit targets in southern Gaza, Lebanon
  • Families on both sides await news on hostage swap deal

Israeli and United States (US) authorities have indicated that the proposed four-day Gaza truce and hostage release will not start until at least Friday, as Israeli forces continue to hit targets in southern Gaza and Lebanon

This latest development has thwarted the hopes of families on both sides who were upbeat that some captives would regain freedom today, Thursday, November 23, 2023.

And as anxiety grows and the wait continues, Khan Younis in southern Gaza was hit by Israeli airstrikes and artillery in at least two waves of attack early on Thursday, Palestinian media reported.

According to agency reports, tensions also rose on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon early Thursday, after Hezbollah claimed that five fighters, including the son of the head of the militant group’s parliamentary bloc, had been killed.

However, amid the growing apprehension, Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi indicated the release of at least 50 Israeli and foreign hostages held by Hamas was on track, but the exercise would not happen until Friday at the earliest.

Hanegbi said in a statement; “The contacts on the release of our hostages are advancing and continuing constantly. The start of the release will take place according to the original agreement between the sides, and not before Friday.”

Multiple news outlets later cited anonymous Israeli officials as saying that the halt in fighting would also not begin on Thursday, as had been widely expected.

Also speaking on the delay in executing the release deal, White House spokesperson, Adrienne Watson said final logistical details for the release were being worked out., adding; “That is on track and we are hopeful that implementation will begin on Friday morning”.

It was not immediately clear what caused the delay in the deal expected to have come into force from Thursday. An Egyptian security source told Reuters that mediators had sought a start time of 10 am.

Also citing an unidentified official, Israel’s public broadcaster Kan reported there was a 24-hour delay because the agreement was not signed by Hamas and mediator Qatar. The official said they were optimistic the agreement would be carried out once it was signed.

“No one said there would be a release tomorrow except the media … We had to make it clear that no release is planned before Friday, because of the uncertainty that hostages’ families are facing,” Kan quoted a source in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office as saying.

The delay is a blow to families desperate to see their loved ones return home, and to the more than two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who have been suffering relentless Israeli bombardments as well as food, water, and energy shortages.

The complex and carefully choreographed deal saw Israel and Hamas militants agree to a four-day truce, during which at least 50 of the hostages taken in the deadly 7 October attacks would be released. Three Americans, including three-year-old Abigail Mor Idan, were among the hostages earmarked for release, according to US officials.

In turn, Israel would release at least 150 Palestinian women and children being held in Israeli jails and allow more humanitarian aid into the coastal territory after weeks of bombardment, heavy fighting, and a crippling siege. For every 10 additional hostages released, there would be an extra day’s “pause” in fighting, an Israeli government document said.

An estimated 240 hostages were taken by Hamas and other Palestinian gunmen during bloody raids into Israel on 7 October that are believed to have killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians. The shocking attack prompted an Israeli offensive into Hamas-run Gaza, which authorities there say has killed more than 14,000 people. Most casualties on both sides are said to be civilians, although exact tolls can not be independently verified.

Netanyahu has backed the agreement with Hamas, brokered by Qatar, the US, and Egypt, but vowed it will be temporary and will not end the campaign to destroy Hamas. “We are winning and will continue to fight until absolute victory,” he said on Wednesday, vowing to secure Israel from threats emanating from Gaza and Lebanon, home to Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants.

The Israeli Prime Minister however confirmed that in the intervening period, the Red Cross will be able to visit any remaining hostages in Gaza. – The Guardian with agencies’ report

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