A senior Hamas leader has claimed that the civilian hostages in Gaza will be freed if Israel meets the right conditions.
Khaled Meshaal, one of the key negotiators of the terrorist organisation, has said that over 200 hostages held by the group could be released if Israel reduces the intensity of the bombing in Gaza.
‘Let them stop this aggression and you will find the mediators like Qatar and Egypt and some Arab countries and others will find a way to have them released and we’ll send them to their homes,’ he told Sky News.
He said hostage releases cannot happen while Israel’s air offensive remains so intense.
‘We want to stop the random bombardments, the total destruction, the genocide so that the al Qassam soldiers can take them from their places and hand them to the Red Cross or whoever.
‘We need the right conditions to allow them to be released.’
Khaled Meshaal has claimed that the civilian hostages in Gaza will be freed if Israel meets the right conditions
Meshaal, one of the key negotiators of the terrorist organisation, has said that over 200 hostages held by the group could be released if Israel reduces the intensity of the bombing in Gaza
Meshaal repeated the claim that 22 hostages have died in Israeli airstrikes since being taken.
Hamas will not say which countries they are from but says many of the dead are Israelis.
He would also not be drawn on whether Hamas will stop hostage negotiations entirely if Israel presses ahead with a ground invasion of Gaza.
So far only two hostages have been released by Hamas.
Khaled Meshaal is a powerful figure within Hamas, revered as a living martyr after surviving an Israeli attempt to assassinate him almost three decades ago.
It comes after an Illinois teenager released on Friday by Hamas after 13 days in captivity is ‘doing very well,’ her father said, with footage showing the dramatic moment she and her mother were handed over to the Red Cross.
Natalie Shoshana Raanan, 17, and her mother Judith Tai Raanan, 59, arrived back in Israel late on Friday, the Israeli government confirmed, having left Gaza via an Egyptian-controlled crossing.
The Raanans walked out of Gaza without obvious visible physical injuries, getting out of a car and then being surrounded by ICRC staff wearing vests bearing the red cross. The pair then got into a Red Cross vehicle and drove away.
They are receiving medical treatment, the governor of Illinois said, without providing details of their condition. The deal to free the pair was brokered by Qatar.
Her brother, Ben, joked that he was ‘annoyed’ because she still looked ‘like a supermodel’, despite her ordeal.
‘She’s doing good. She’s doing very good,’ said Uri Raanan, 71, who lives in the Chicago suburbs, adding that they did not discuss where she was held or her conditions in captivity.
‘She did not tell me anything. But she told me they treat her nice, and she was doing very good.
‘I’m going to hug her and kiss her, and it’s going to be the best day of my life.’
Judith Tai Raanan and her daughter Natalie Shoshana Raanan arrived back in Israel late on Friday, the Israeli government confirmed
Natalie Raanan and her mother Judith are seen speaking to Joe Biden, in a photo released on Friday night by the US embassy in Israel
Knowing Natalie may be able to celebrate her 18th birthday next week at home with family and friends feels ‘wonderful. The best news,’ Uri Raanan said.
He said he believes Natalie and Judith to be in transit to Tel Aviv to reunite with relatives, and that both will be back in the U.S. early this week.
‘I spoke with my daughter earlier today – she sounds good, and she looks good,’ he told a press conference outside his home.
‘I spoke with President Biden. I thanked him for his concern, in releasing them. He was very nice.
‘I spoke to Governor Pritzker and he was nice.
‘And hopefully I will see them next week. Next week is Natalie’s birthday, and we will celebrate it here.’
The father said he first learnt of the possible release through Israeli television, and then received a call from the IDF.
He described the last 13 days as ‘the worst situation,’ adding that he had been kept in the dark by their captors.
‘I did not sleep at night and my head was always in Israel,’ he said.
‘Lots of phone calls, lots of TV. I’ve been glued to the tv for two weeks, hoping for good news – and finally it came.’
He added: ‘I did not lose hope. Praying, and just waiting for this moment.’
Anthony Blinken, the Secretary of State, said Hamas is still feared to be holding 10 Americans hostage.
The Secretary of State revealed the number still missing during a press conference in which he announced the release of Judith and Natalie Raanan.
Blinken said he had no further information to offer on the ‘status or condition’ of the Americans still believed to be in Hamas custody following the October 7 terror attacks.
‘I can’t speak publicly about the details of these efforts, and I know you understand that, but the urgent work to free every single American, to free all other hostages continues – as does our work to secure the safe passage out of Gaza for the Americans who are trapped there,’ he said.
‘In this particular instance, I want to thank the Government of Qatar for their very important assistance.’
He also refused to comment further on how the Raanans are doing after being handed over.
Israel responded to the Hamas massacre and hostage crisis by pounding Gaza with air strikes, killing more than 4,000 people according to Hamas, and has said it will act to free the hostages while wiping out the terror group.
Israeli tanks and troops are massed near the perimeter of the enclave for an expected ground invasion, calling on Palestinians to evacuate the north of Gaza, where it says Hamas is dug in.
Israel has also said that there will be no end to its full blockade of the enclave unless Israeli hostages are freed.
Hamas says it has some 200 hostages and that 50 more are held by other armed groups in the enclave.
The group claimed more than 20 hostages have been killed by Israeli air strikes, but has not given any further details.