Gaza truce is back on track as Egypt says it has received lists for a third exchange

Official says Egypt received a list of 13 hostages Hamas will release, and another list of 39 Palestinians that Israel is expected to free

By AP

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Palestinians line up for cooking gas during the second day of the temporary ceasefire between Hamas and Israel in Khan Younis. — AP
Palestinians line up for cooking gas during the second day of the temporary ceasefire between Hamas and Israel in Khan Younis. — AP

Published: Sun 26 Nov 2023, 6:46 PM

The fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hamas appeared to be back on track on Sunday after the release of a second group of militant-held hostages and Palestinians from Israeli prisons, and Egypt said it had received new lists for an expected third release.

In a separate development, Hamas announced on Sunday that one of its top commanders had been killed, without saying when or how. Israel's military confirmed it.

The second exchange was delayed for hours on Saturday after Hamas accused Israel of violating the agreement, which has brought the first significant pause in seven weeks of war marked by the deadliest Israeli-Palestinian violence in decades and vast destruction and displacement across the Gaza Strip. Hamas later released 13 Israelis and four Thais, while Israel freed 39 Palestinian prisoners.

Diaa Rashwan, chair of the Egyptian State Information Services, said Egypt had received a list of 13 hostages Hamas will release on Sunday, and another list of 39 Palestinians that Israel is expected to free.

Palestinians line up for cooking gas during the second day of the temporary ceasefire between Hamas and Israel in Khan Younis. — AP
Palestinians line up for cooking gas during the second day of the temporary ceasefire between Hamas and Israel in Khan Younis. — AP

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told NBC’s “Meet the Press" that the US had “reason to believe” that an American hostage would be released on Sunday and said there were hopes it would be Abigail Edan, the 4-year-old who lost her parents in the October 7 Hamas attack. Sullivan also said President Joe Biden would speak with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later on Sunday.

Hamas and other militant groups seized some 240 people during the rampage across southern Israel that ignited the war. Forty-four have been released, one was freed by Israeli forces and two were found dead inside Gaza.

Some Israelis have accused Netanyahu of not doing enough to bring them back. Pressure from the hostages' families has sharpened the dilemma facing the country's leaders, who seek to eliminate Hamas as a military and governing power while returning all the captives.

The war has claimed the lives of more than 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians killed by Hamas in the initial attack. More than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed, roughly two thirds of them women and minors, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

The four-day ceasefire, which began Friday, was brokered by Qatar and Egypt and the United States. Hamas is to release at least 50 Israeli hostages, and Israel 150 Palestinian prisoners. All are women and minors.

Israel has said the truce can be extended by an extra day for every additional 10 hostages freed, but has vowed to quickly resume its offensive once it ends. Sullivan said the US is working “with all sides on the possibility that this deal gets extended to additional hostages beyond the initial 50".

Hamas announced the death of Ahmed Al Ghandour, who was in charge of northern Gaza and a member of its top military council. He is the highest-ranking militant known to have been killed in the fighting.

Shuruq Dwayat, left, a Palestinian prisoner released by Israel, is hugged by relatives as she arrives home in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Bahar. — AP
Shuruq Dwayat, left, a Palestinian prisoner released by Israel, is hugged by relatives as she arrives home in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Bahar. — AP

Al Ghandour, believed to have been around 56 years old, had survived at least three Israeli attempts on his life, and was involved in a cross-border attack in 2006 in which Palestinian militants captured an Israeli soldier, according to the Counter Extremism Project, an advocacy group based in Washington.

Hamas said he was killed along with three other senior militants, including Ayman Siam, who Israel says was in charge of Hamas’ rocket-firing unit. The Israeli military had mentioned both men in a November 16 statement, saying it had targeted an underground complex where Hamas leaders were hiding.

The Israeli military claims to have killed thousands of militants, without providing evidence, including several mid-ranking commanders it has identified by name.

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The pause has given some respite to Gaza's 2.3 million people, still reeling from relentless Israeli bombardment that has driven three-quarters of the population from their homes and levelled residential areas. Rocket fire from Gaza militants into Israel also went silent.

The Israeli hostages freed on Saturday included seven children and six women, ranging from 3 to 67. Most were from Kibbutz Be’eri, a community Hamas militants ravaged during their October 7 attack.

The freed hostages have mostly stayed away from the public eye. Hospitals said their physical condition has been good, aside from one who was shot during the attack and required surgery. Little is publicly known about the conditions of their captivity.

Hila Rotem Shoshani, a released hostage, reunites with her uncle in Israel. — AP
Hila Rotem Shoshani, a released hostage, reunites with her uncle in Israel. — AP

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