War in the Middle East: tug of war with Hamas: joy over the release of some hostages

Since Friday, a total of 58 hostages have been released from the violence of the terrorist organization Hamas during the ceasefire in the Gaza war that lasted several days.

War in the Middle East: tug of war with Hamas: joy over the release of some hostages

Since Friday, a total of 58 hostages have been released from the violence of the terrorist organization Hamas during the ceasefire in the Gaza war that lasted several days. A third group arrived in Israel. In return for the 17 released, 39 Palestinian prisoners were to be released from Israeli prisons, as was the case the day before.

The exchange is part of the Qatar-brokered agreement for a four-day ceasefire that is expected to last at least until Tuesday morning.

Hamas says it is seeking to extend the ceasefire. The terrorist organization announced on Sunday evening that the aim was to get more Palestinian prisoners out of Israeli prisons in exchange for hostages. There was initially no reaction from Israel. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also signaled his willingness to extend the ceasefire. The agreement provides for the possibility of extending the pause in fighting in return for the release of 10 more hostages per day, Netanyahu said after talks with US President Joe Biden. "That would be welcomed."

At the same time, he told Biden that fighting would resume after the ceasefire. After the end of the agreement, Israel will "fulfill its war goals with full force."

Biden had previously said at a press conference that he hoped the pause in fighting would be extended. This would allow more hostages to be freed and more humanitarian aid to be provided to those in need in Gaza.

The release of more hostages who were kidnapped by the Islamists on October 7th is expected on Monday.

There was great joy about the release at the weekend, but it was clouded by concern for the people still being held by Hamas. In Israel it is assumed that almost 180 hostages are still in the hands of the extremists. Among those released since Friday were 40 Israelis, including eight German dual citizens and others with a second passport.

US citizen released

For the first time, a four-year-old girl was also a hostage who had US citizenship. “She is free and she is now in Israel,” said US President Joe Biden. “What she had to endure is unimaginable.” Biden said the mother was killed in front of the girl in the attack by Hamas terrorists on October 7th. The father was also shot as he lay protectively over the girl. The child then ran to the neighbors in their kibbutz, who were also taken hostage. Last Friday it spent its fourth birthday in captivity.

In addition to the 40 Israelis, a total of 18 foreigners, including 14 Thais, one Filipino and one Russian, have been released since the ceasefire began. These foreigners were released regardless of the hostage deal between Hamas and Israel.

As part of this agreement, Israel's government released a large number of Palestinian prisoners from prison - 39 women and minors on Friday and Saturday. A third group should be released in the evening.

On the streets of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, the 39 Palestinian prisoners released on Saturday were greeted with cheers from crowds. Hamas flags were waved, as “The Times of Israel” reported.

Biden joins the diplomatic struggle

The releases initially stalled on Saturday because Hamas stopped the handover of the second group at the last minute. The reason given by the terrorist organization was that, in its view, Israel had violated part of the hostage deal. Among other things, she accused Israel of not allowing sufficient aid deliveries to the northern part of the Gaza Strip. Israel rejected this and threatened to terminate the agreement.

US President Biden then intervened personally on Saturday, as a spokeswoman for his National Security Council reported. The 81-year-old spoke on the phone with the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and the Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani. In the end, Hamas gave in and released the hostages late in the evening.

More German dual nationals released

According to their families, the four Germans who were released on Saturday were a 67-year-old woman and her 38-year-old daughter and her children aged 3 and 8. "I'm thinking of them and of those who are still in the hands of Hamas. We are working with all our might to ensure that they too will soon be free," wrote Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on X, formerly Twitter. Four German-Israelis were released on Friday as part of a group of 24 hostages.

The ongoing ceasefire is expected to last at least four days until Tuesday morning. According to the agreement, a total of 50 Israeli hostages are to be released during this time. An extension of the ceasefire up to ten days and further releases should be possible, as Qatar announced.

Netanyahu in the Gaza Strip for the first time since the start of the war

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the troops in the Gaza Strip for the first time since the start of the war. “We are making every effort to bring back our hostages, and in the end we will bring them all back,” Netanyahu told the soldiers, according to his office. "We will continue until the end - until victory." According to his office, during the visit he also looked at a Hamas tunnel that had been uncovered by the soldiers.

Steinmeier in Jerusalem to Herzog: Our solidarity with Israel counts

The two highest representatives of the German state - Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Bundestag President Bärbel Bas (SPD) - arrived in Israel for a solidarity visit. “Our solidarity with Israel applies,” said Steinmeier in Jerusalem at a press conference with Israeli President Izchak Herzog.

“It is not just with Israel as a victim of terror. Our solidarity also applies to Israel that is defending itself, that is fighting against an existential threat,” said Steinmeier. Herzog thanked Steinmeier and the federal government for their “clear stance” on Israel’s right to defend itself.

The latest Gaza war was triggered by the worst massacre in Israel's history, which terrorists from the Gaza Strip committed in Israel near the border on October 7th. More than 1,200 people were killed. Around 240 hostages were taken to Gaza, including several Germans.

Israel responded with massive airstrikes, a blockade of the Gaza Strip and began a ground offensive in late October. According to the Islamist Hamas, almost 15,000 people were killed. More than 36,000 were injured. The numbers cannot currently be independently verified.

Girl believed dead is released

After 50 days of captivity, a nine-year-old Israeli-Irish girl who was originally thought to be dead was released on Saturday. "We cannot find words to describe our feelings after 50 difficult and complicated days. We are overjoyed to be able to hug Emily again," said the family. Emily Hand had turned nine years old while she was being held hostage, which was celebrated with a party in Dublin a week and a half ago.

In an emotional TV interview, her father tearfully expressed his relief that she had not fallen into the hands of Hamas because that would have been "worse than death." It was later said that his daughter might have been kidnapped as a hostage in the Gaza Strip. On Saturday evening she was free.