Twelve more Israelis have been freed from Gaza, including several who had been separated from family members released in recent days, as the current truce deal appears to be reaching its conclusion.
The latest release includes two Russian-Israeli women whom Hamas released as a “gesture” to Russian President Vladimir Putin, in addition to the 10 Israelis the terror group was required to release under the terms of its truce deal with Israel. Hamas also released four Thai workers whose names were not immediately released.
The hostages freed on Wednesday do not include members of the Bibas family, parents Shiri and Yarden and brothers Kfir, 10 months, and Ariel, 4, who have become symbols of the crisis in a country riveted by the daily ritual of learning who is coming home and who remains captive or missing. Hamas said on Wednesday that Shiri and her sons had been killed in an airstrike. Israel said it was investigating the “cruel and inhumane” claim, which comes days after Hamas said it had handed the family to a different terror group and more than five days since the last Israeli airstrike. Hamas previously returned a hostage whom it had previously said was dead.
Hamas has offered to release more hostages over the next four days in exchange for an extension of the ceasefire. It is not clear whether Israel will accept the offer. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Wednesday to continue the war, and Israeli military leaders have reportedly signed off on plans for the conflict’s next phase.
Meanwhile, a far-right minister has threatened that his party will leave Netanyahu’s government if the war does not resume: National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s departure could but would not necessarily bring down the government.
Most of the latest freed hostages come from Kibbutz Be’eri, one of the hardest-hit communities during the Oct. 7 attack where more than 100 people were killed. The Israeli hostages freed Wednesday are: