Hamas has handed over a fifth group of Israeli and foreign hostages and they are now back on Israeli soil, the military has said, ahead of the final day of the truce tomorrow. The Israelis in the group were named as 36-year-old Rimon Kirsht, whose husband remains a hostage, Gabriela Leimberg, 59, and her daughter Mia, 17, who was filmed clutching a small dog as she was flanked by Hamas fighters.
The group also includes Mia’s aunt Clara Merman, 63, Argentina-born Ofelia Roitman, 77, Ditza Herman, 84, and Tamar Metzger, 78. The final three named hostages are Merav Tal, 53, Philippines-born Noralin Babdilla, 60, and Ada Sagi, 75, whose British son Noam has been campaigning in Israel and London for her release. The fifth group of hostages is also said to include two foreign nationals, who Israel says are from Thailand but have not yet been named, bringing the total released to twelve.
Pictures show the captives being escorted by balaclava-clad Hamas terrorists inside Gaza as they prepared to hand them over to the Red Cross and Israel, with crowds gathered around filming and jeering. Qatar confirmed tonight that 30 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, 15 of whom are women and 15 minors, were released by Israel as part of an exchange deal at the center of the ceasefire agreement. It comes after the tentative break in fighting earlier appeared to be hanging in the balance as Israel and Hamas traded accusations that the other side had violated the agreement for the first time since it came into force.
Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF) claimed three explosive devices were detonated near its troops at two sites in northern Gaza , with terrorists at one location then allegedly opening fire on them, which they returned gunfire. Hamas also accused Israel of committing a ‘blatant breach of the ceasefire,’ which it said its fighters responded to, without providing details. Both sides have claimed they are committed to the ongoing ceasefire. The already extended truce agreement is expected to come to an end tomorrow, with the final group expected to be released then before the fighting restarts.
Negotiators are desperately calling on both sides to extend the pause further, Egypt and Qatar have said, with international calls for a prolonged ceasefire mounting. A senior diplomatic source in the Knesset told The Times of Israel of negotiations to prolong the truce: ‘If there is a concrete proposal, the cabinet will consider it, but there hasn’t been anything like that. ‘If we see it’s a serious proposal, we’ll look into it.’ But Israel says it remains committed to crushing Hamas’ military capabilities and ending its 16-year rule over Gaza.
That would likely mean expanding a ground offensive from devastated northern Gaza to the south. About 1,200 people were killed in Israel during Hamas’s bloody invasion on October 7 which ignited the war. More than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed since the war began, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza. Roughly 240 hostages were captured by Hamas, with just over 160 thought to still be in captivity following a series of exchanges with Palestinian prisoners.
The family of the youngest hostage held by Hamas have pleaded for his return as it was earlier confirmed that he was not on the list for the latest release. Ten-month-old Kfir Bibas has been missing with his father Yarden, wife Shiri, 32, and their son Ariel, four, since October 7, with family members hoping they would be returned during the extended ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
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