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Tension Mounts Ahead Of Truce Deadline

by | Thu, Nov 30 2023

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Sixteen more hostages have been freed from Gaza and 30 more Palestinian prisoners released from Israeli jails as negotiators tried to hammer out a further extension to the six-day pause in hostilities which could resume as early as Thursday (November 30) afternoon Australian time if Israel and Hamas fail to reach an agreement.

The latest captives to be returned included two Russian-Israeli women who were released separately first. The others who followed were four male teens aged 16 to 18, a 13-year-old girl and five women aged 36 to 57. All were Israelis, but several were dual nationals from the US, Germany and the Netherlands. Four more Thai farm workers were also freed..

Celebrations were muted as Hamas claimed that the youngest hostage 10-month-old Kfir Bibas, his four-year-old brother Ariel and their mother Shiri had been killed in an Israeli airstrike. It didn’t say when or where. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) couldn’t confirm their deaths, but believe the mother and boys had been transferred by Hamas to another Palestinian militant group in Gaza’s southern city of Khan Younis. For many Israelis, baby Kfir was the innocent face at the heart of the Hamas atrocities.

With Wednesday’s releases, a total of 73 Israelis, including dual nationals, have been freed during the six-day truce, most of whom appear physically healthy, but mentally shaken. An elderly woman who was in a critical condition is showing signs of recovery. Another 24 hostages — 23 Thais and one Filipino — have also been freed. Before the ceasefire, Hamas released four hostages, and the Israeli army rescued one. Two others were found dead in Gaza.

The Associated Press reports that: “So far, the Israeli onslaught in Gaza seems to have had little effect on Hamas’s rule, evidenced by its ability to conduct complex negotiations, enforce the ceasefire among other armed groups, and orchestrate the release of hostages. Hamas leaders, including [its chief in Gaza] Yehya Sinwar, have likely relocated to the south.”

The Israeli news media is reporting that the IDF would resume the attack on Thursday at 4pm AEDT. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has arrived in Israel for ‘final-hour’ talks to try to extend the ceasefire and keep humanitarian aid supplies pouring into Gaza. A further complication to truce negotiations is the fatal shooting of two Palestinian boys aged 8 and 15 by Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Jenin on Wednesday. Two senior militant commanders were also killed in the IDF operation.

Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that Gaza is in the midst of an “epic humanitarian catastrophe,” and called for a ceasefire to replace the temporary truce. “Intense negotiations are taking place to prolong the truce – which we strongly welcome – but we believe we need a true humanitarian ceasefire,” he told a meeting of the UN Security Council.