Tue, Nov 28, 2023 10:40 PM
By The Associated Press, AP
The latest swap of Hamas militant-held hostages for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel took place Tuesday evening as part of a cease-fire agreement between the warring sides.
Ten Israeli hostages — nine women and a 17-year-old girl — and two Thais were handed over to the Red Cross in Gaza and were back in Israeli territory, the military said. About an hour later, Israel released 30 Palestinian prisoners.
Israel and Hamas have agreed to extend their cease-fire until Wednesday, raising the prospect of further exchanges. Since Friday, Hamas has released 81 hostages, mostly Israeli nationals, while Israel has freed 180 Palestinian prisoners.
An extended cease-fire would allow more aid into Gaza, which has been battered by weeks of Israeli siege and bombardment that has driven three out of every four people in Gaza from their homes. The territory is home to 2.3 million people.
Israel says it remains committed to crushing Hamas’ military capabilities and ending the group's 16-year rule over Gaza. That would likely mean expanding a ground offensive from devastated northern Gaza into the south.
Roughly 240 hostages were captured by Hamas in its Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel that ignited the war. More than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed since the war began, according to the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry in Gaza. About 1,200 people have been killed in Israel, mostly during the initial incursion by Hamas.
— Israel and Hamas extend their truce, but it seems only a matter of time before the war resumes
— US tells Israel any ground campaign in southern Gaza must limit further civilian displacement
— The family of an infant hostage pleads for his release as truce winds down
— Freed Israeli hostage describes deteriorating conditions while being held by Hamas
— Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war
Here’s what's happening in the war:
MANILA, Philippines — A Filipino-Israeli woman arrived in Israel after being released by Hamas Tuesday night as part of a group of 12 hostages, the president of the Philippines announced on social media early Wednesday.
Noralin Babadilla was the second of two Filipinos released from captivity in Gaza during the truce in the Israel-Hamas war. With her release, “all Filipinos affected by the war have been accounted for,” wrote President Ferdinand Marcos.
Babadilla, who lived in Israel and worked as a caregiver, was visiting friends in Kibbutz Nirim with her husband during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, the Israeli embassy in Manila said in a statement. Her husband, Gideon Babani, was killed during the attack, and Babadilla was taken hostage.
Marcos thanked Israel for facilitating Babadilla's release, and thanked Egypt and Qatar “for their crucial role in this process over the past several weeks.”
WASHINGTON — The G7 foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the U.S. as well as the High Representative of the European Union are calling for the unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas and the facilitated departure of foreign nationals from Gaza, according to a statement released by the U.S. State Department.
The G7 also said it supports the further extension of the current pause in fighting.
“We remain steadfast in our commitment to work with all partners in the region to prevent the conflict from escalating further,” the statement said.
WASHINGTON — White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Tuesday that the U.S. has airlifted over 54,000 pounds of Gaza-bound medical items and food aid to a staging area in Egypt.
Two more airlifts are planned in the coming days, Sullivan said. Since Oct. 21, more than 2,000 trucks have delivered aid to Gaza, he said.
JOHOR AL-DEEK, Gaza Strip — Displaced Palestinian families in Gaza were using a pause in fighting on Tuesday to search for belongings they left behind, with some scouring through rubble where their homes once stood.
While the temporary cease-fire has stopped the Israeli airstrikes, homeless families in Johor al-Deek in central Gaza said they're struggling to stay warm.
“Winter has come, and I have nothing for them to wear,” said Hanan Tayeh as she searched for belongings buried under her flattened home. “It is cold, we are homeless.”
There are about 1.8 million people displaced in Gaza, about three quarters of the besieged territory's population, according to the U.N. humanitarian agency.
Over the past two weeks the weather has turned, with rain and cold winds sweeping across the territory. Some areas have been affected by flooding.
“There is no home, as if it was erased from the map,” said Yaser Felfel. “I have six children, we are eight members, where do we go?”
Israel released 30 Palestinian prisoners Tuesday on the fifth day of its temporary cease-fire with Hamas.
Earlier Tuesday, Hamas released 12 hostages the group had been holding captive since Oct. 7.
Since last Friday, Hamas has released 81 hostages, mostly Israeli nationals, while Israel has freed 180 Palestinian prisoners. The exchange is part of an ongoing cease-fire agreement between the warring sides.
The Israeli army said Tuesday that 10 Israelis and two Thais held hostage in Gaza have been released, arriving in Egypt on the fifth day of a temporary cease-fire.
Hamas released nine women and a 17-year-old girl on Tuesday evening, the Israeli army said. The hostages will be flown to hospitals in Israel, where they will be reunited with their families.
Around 30 Palestinian prisoners are expected to be released as part of the deal negotiated by Qatar, Egypt, and the United States. The original four-day ceasefire, which expired Monday, was extended for an additional two days.
ANKARA, Turkey - Turkey’s health minister said Tuesday that his country hopes to soon set up field hospitals and start providing health services in Gaza.
Fahrettin Koca made the announcement on X, formerly known as Twitter, hours after a Turkish delegation crossed into Gaza from Egypt to inspect possible sites for field hospitals. He did not provide additional information.
Turkey dispatched a ship carrying medical equipment and supplies, including ambulances and eight field hospitals, to Egypt earlier this month.
TEL AVIV, Israel — For the first time since the cease-fire began last Friday, Israel and Hamas have traded accusations of a serious violation. The Israeli military said three explosive devices were detonated near its troops at two locations in northern Gaza, and that militants at one site opened fire on the troops, who fired back. It said its troops were in positions in accordance with the terms of the truce,
Hamas, in turn, accused Israel of committing a “blatant breach of the cease-fire,” triggering retaliation by its fighters, without providing details. It said in a statement that it “was still committed to the cease-fire so long as the enemy is committed to it,” and urged mediators to intervene.
It was not immediately clear if the exchange posed a threat to the truce. But it underscored the fragility of the truce in northern Gaza, where Israeli forces and Hamas fighters are holding their positions in close proximity to each other, each preparing for a potential resumption of fighting when the cease-fire ends.
The sides agreed to extend their truce through Wednesday, with another two planned exchanges of militant-held hostages for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel. But Israel has vowed to resume the war with “full force” to destroy Hamas once it’s clear that no more hostages will be freed under the deal.
TEL AVIV, Israel — Kfir Bibas has spent nearly a fifth of his life in Hamas captivity.
The 10-month-old was abducted from his home in a southern Israeli kibbutz on Oct. 7, when Palestinian militants snatched about 240 people and dragged them to Gaza.
Kfir, the youngest captive, was among about 30 children who were taken hostage in Hamas’ assault. Under a current temporary cease-fire, Hamas has released women, children and teens, but Kfir hasn’t been included on the lists of those set to be freed.
With his red hair and toothless smile, Kfir’s ordeal has become for many a symbol of the brutality of Hamas’ attack. With most other young hostages already released, Kfir’s fate and that of his 4-year-old brother, Ariel, are now a rallying cry for Israelis seeking the speedy release of all the hostages. A demonstration in support of the Bibas family is being held in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.
“There is no precedent for something like this, for a baby who was kidnapped when he was 9 months old,” Eylon Keshet, Kfir’s father’s cousin, told reporters on Tuesday. “Is baby Kfir the enemy of Hamas?”
Kfir Bibas’ family, like other relatives of captives, has been tormented since Oct. 7. They have received no sign that he is still alive and wonder how such a helpless infant can cope with being in captivity for so long.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Officials say CIA director William Burns and David Barnea, the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, are in Qatar for talks on extending the Israel-Hamas truce and releasing more hostages.
Qatar has played a key role in mediating with Hamas, and helped broker a cease-fire that went into effect on Friday and has been extended through Wednesday. So far, Hamas has released 69 hostages, including 51 Israelis, and Israel has released 150 Palestinian prisoners.
A diplomat confirmed that Burns and Barnea were in Qatar on Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks. The diplomat said officials from Egypt, which has also served as a mediator, joined the talks.
A U.S. official confirmed Burns was in Qatar, speaking on condition of anonymity because the CIA director’s travel plans are not publicized for security reasons. The official said Burns was in Qatar to discuss the Israel-Hamas conflict and the hostages.
Burns’ focus is expected to include freeing Americans among the hostages and keeping the releases going overall, which could lead to more male hostages and the first known Israeli security force members being released, the U.S. official said.
The meeting in Qatar was first reported by The Washington Post.
By Isabel Debre in Jerusalem and Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
JERUSALEM -- Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen met on Wednesday with Thailand’s foreign minister, Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara, and 17 Thai citizens who were released after spending more than 50 days in captivity in Gaza.
“Overwhelmed with joy and gratitude to finally meet our fellow Thais who were recently released just days ago,” Parnpree wrote on X, formerly called Twitter. “They are in good spirits and ready to go home to their loved ones.”
The 17 Thais released over the past few days are currently at the Shamir Medical Center outside of Tel Aviv. An estimated 15 Thais remain in captivity in Gaza.
According to Cohen, 39 Thai citizens were killed on Oct. 7 when Hamas attacked southern Israel, triggering the current Hamas-Israel war and taking about 240 people hostage. Prior to that, approximately 30,000 Thais worked in Israel, mostly in agriculture.
Fifty Israeli hostages have been freed under the terms of an initial four-day truce, which has been extended to Wednesday. An additional 19 hostages were released in separate negotiations, including 17 Thais, one Filipino and one Russian Israeli. So far, 150 Palestinians have been released from Israeli prisons. Israel has said it would extend the cease-fire by one day for every 10 additional hostages released.
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has told Israel that it must work to avoid “significant further displacement” of Palestinian civilians in southern Gaza if it renews its ground campaign aimed at eradicating the Hamas militant group, senior U.S. officials said.
The administration, seeking to avoid more large-scale civilian casualties or mass displacement like that seen before the current temporary pause in the fighting, underscored to the Israelis that they must operate with far greater precision in southern Gaza than they did in the north, the officials said, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the White House.
Amid mounting international and domestic pressure over the rising Palestinian death toll, the White House has begun to put greater pressure on Israel that the manner of the coming campaign must be “carefully thought through,” according to one of the officials. The Israelis have been receptive when administration officials have raised these concerns, the official said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made clear that the Israeli Defense Forces will eventually restart military operations after the conclusion of the current temporary cease-fire.
President Joe Biden has said he would like to see the pause — which has allowed an exchange of hostages and prisoners and a surge of much-needed humanitarian aid to get into Gaza — continue as long as feasible.
CAIRO — The Gaza Health Ministry says the dialysis unit at Shifa Hospital has been reopened and is receiving patients.
In a brief statement on Tuesday, the ministry invited patients to resume treatment.
Israeli troops raided Shifa, the territory’s largest hospital, earlier this month, leading to the evacuation of hundreds of patients and thousands of displaced people who had been sheltering there. The hospital had run low on food, water and electricity, and was no longer able to accept patients.
Israel says Hamas used the hospital for military purposes. The military revealed a secret tunnel leading to several rooms under the complex, along with other evidence of what it says was a militant presence. Hamas and hospital staff have denied Israeli allegations that Hamas had a major command and control center there.
The World Health Organization says there are still 180 patients, including 22 on kidney dialysis, and seven health care workers at Shifa.
The current Hamas-Israel cease-fire has allowed some relief goods and supplies to enter Gaza.
PARIS — France’s foreign minister has given behind-the-scenes glimpses into what she described as the “difficult” Qatar-brokered hostage-release negotiations between Israel and Hamas, as she expressed relief that three French citizens were among the latest group swapped on Monday.
“Until the very last moment, you don’t know. Lists are exchanged but afterward there have often been difficulties,” Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna said Tuesday on RTL radio.
She said “there were concerns and questions for part of the day” on Monday about the latest exchange and that she’d spoken to ministerial counterparts from several Arab nations to push the process along. Finally, “everything went well. Yes, I won’t hide that at the end of the day, there is a big ‘Phew’ of relief.”
The three French citizens released Monday were all children, ages 12 and 16. France still counts five citizens missing, some of them thought to be held hostage, from the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel that triggered their deadliest and most destructive war.
UNITED NATIONS — The head of the United Nations has reiterated his call for a long-term truce in Gaza and the release of all hostages held by Palestinian militants.
In a statement Tuesday, ahead of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Palestinians were enduring “one of the darkest chapters” in their history.
Guterres again condemned Hamas’ Oct. 7 assault on Israel, which triggered the fifth and by far deadliest war in Gaza, but said it “cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”
He called for “a long-term humanitarian cease-fire, unrestricted access for lifesaving aid, the release of all hostages, the protection of civilians and an end to violations of international humanitarian law.”
Israel and Hamas have agreed to extend a temporary cease-fire through Wednesday, with more planned releases of militant-held hostages and Palestinians imprisoned in Israel. But Israel has vowed to resume the war to destroy Hamas once it stops releasing hostages.
CANBERRA, Australia — Relatives and a friend of Israelis kidnapped and killed by Hamas visited Australia’s Parliament House on Tuesday, sharing personal stories in an effort to lobby for international support for all hostages to be freed — and to support Israel’s war effort.
The group of five will meet political leaders during a two-day visit in Canberra.
“Our aim first is to get the hostages back, all of them,” Elad Levy told reporters outside the Parliament House. Levy’s niece, Roni Eshel, was a 19-year-old soldier initially thought kidnapped during Hamas’ Oct. 7 incursion into Israel but confirmed dead weeks later.
“Our second aim is to get the support of the Australian people and the Australian government ... for Israel’s actions in wiping out Hamas and in our military actions right now to eradicate Hamas,” Levy said.
Australia’s major political parties have supported Israel’s right to defend itself but have urged Israel to comply with international law by containing non-combatant casualties in Gaza.
An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of the Filipino-Israeli woman who was released from captivity Tuesday. It is Noralin Babadilla, not Noralyn.