As a six-day truce between Israel and Hamas entered its final day, the two sides were negotiating a way to extend the cease-fire in Gaza.
So far, at least 60 Israeli women and children whom Hamas took hostage have been released, including some that the terrorist group Islamic Jihad had been holding. Twenty-one foreigners, mostly of Thai descent, were also freed under separate side deals. Ten Israelis and two Thais were released Tuesday.
Altogether, Hamas took 240 people hostage during its October 7 terror attack that sparked the war. Families of more hostages have reportedly been informed of the names of those due to be released Wednesday.
Sadly, though, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said Wednesday it was assessing a Hamas claim that he youngest baby taken hostage, 10-month-old Kfir Bibas, was no longer alive, nor were her four-year-old brother Ariel and their Mother Shiri; Hamas claimed they were all killed in an Israeli airstrike, the accuracy of which IDF was investigating.
Three Americans were among the 17 released on Sunday, including the youngest American taken hostage by Hamas, 4-year-old Abigail Mor Edan. The White House believes about eight or nine Americans remain among the hostages.
An initial four-day truce was extended two extra days, through Wednesday, after Hamas agreed to release at least 10 hostages each of those additional days.
In exchange for the released hostages, Israel initially agreed to free 150 Palestinian prisoners and added another 50 Palestinian women detainees to that list on Tuesday. Additionally, more than 200 humanitarian aid trucks have entered Gaza, dozens of which were intended to be sent to northern Gaza, where the front lines are based.
On Tuesday, Qatari mediators hosted the spy chiefs from Israel’s Mossad and the CIA. The group discussed possible parameters for a new truce deal, including Hamas releasing Israeli men or soldiers being held hostage; up to now all those released have been civilian women and kids.
Even if the truce is extended, Israeli leaders have rebuffed any talks of a lasting halt in the fighting, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying, “We continue until the end—until victory.”