Negotiations in progress to release Gaza hostages

The Israeli prime minister Netanyahu met with the families of the captives and said that Hamas had softened its previous demands.

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that there are ongoing “contacts” to secure the release of the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, following a change in the terrorist group’s initial “ultimatum”.

Netanyahu told this to the relatives of the hostages, who he met with in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, as per a statement from his office.

“Hamas had given an ultimatum”, but “now it has changed it”, he said briefly.

The political chief of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, shared his group’s stance with representatives of Egypt and Qatar, who have been trying to broker a ceasefire similar to the one in November, when over 100 of the 240 hostages were freed.

On Sunday, the Israeli president, Isaac Herzog, started a campaign on the social network X, in multiple languages, to urge “the world leaders” to intervene for the “immediate and unconditional release of our 133 hostages”.

“Hamas holds babies, elderly, women and men in cruel captivity, without essential medication or visits from the Red Cross”, he added.

A Hamas leader asserted last Thursday that they will not let go of the hostages until Israel ceases its military assault on the Palestinian Strip.

Around 240 hostages were taken by the armed group and brought to Gaza, after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, resulting in more than 1,200 deaths.

At the end of November, there was a week of calm that enabled the swap of 105 hostages for 240 Palestinian inmates in Israeli prisons.

Out of the 110 hostages freed so far, 86 are Israelis and 24 are foreigners, while the Israeli Army has retrieved the bodies of another eleven, of whom three were accidentally killed by their own troops.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Army stated on Tuesday that it is ready for “any scenario” after the death of Hamas’ number 2, Saleh Al Aruri, in a bombing in Beirut attributed to Israel by Lebanese security officials.

The Israel Defense Forces are “at a high level of readiness for any scenario”, the army spokesman, Daniel Hagari, said during a press conference in which he did not directly refer to the bombing of the Hamas office in the Lebanese capital.

“The most important thing to say tonight is that we are focused and continue to focus on the fight against Hamas”, the spokesman added.

Two Lebanese security sources said that Aruri was killed in an Israeli bombing in a suburb in the south of Beirut, the Lebanese capital, stronghold of the terrorist group Hezbollah, ally of Hamas.

The Lebanese media, on the other hand, reported that an Israeli bombing carried out with a drone left six dead.

Israel has accused Aruri of orchestrating multiple attacks. The number two of the Islamist Palestinian movement was elected to the position in 2017.

Hamas said that the bombing against its office in Beirut “proves once again the complete failure of this enemy in achieving any of its aggressive goals in the Gaza Strip”.

“They will not break the will and resistance of our people”, it said in the statement.

The armed wing of Hamas, the Al Qasam Brigades, of which Saleh al Arouri was a co-founder, vowed “a response to all the crimes” against the Palestinians.

In a statement, it said that Saleh al Arouri died “with great pride and honor” and emphasized that “the killing of leaders will not deter us from our national duty to defend our people and only increases our resolve to resist”.

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