Hamas says hundreds of foreign hostages will be released ‘in the next few days’

Hamas has said it will begin releasing foreigners held hostage in Gaza in “the next few days”.

Gunmen are believed to be holding some 240 people captive in the Palestinian enclave after they were captured during Hamas’s bloody attack on Israel on October 7.

Five hostages have been freed to date, offering hope to the families of others snatched in southern Israel during the militants’ deadly rampage.

Abu Obeida, a spokesman for Hamas’s military wing, Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, said: “We have informed intermediaries we will release a certain number of foreigners in the next few days.”

On Monday (October 30), Tel Aviv announced it had rescued its first hostage, Private Ori Megidish. The rescue came after Hamas released US citizens, Judith Raanan, 59, and her daughter, Natalie, 18.

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Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, and Nurit Cooper, 79, were also freed, although their husbands remain in captive in Gaza.

Hamas has said it would let the others go in return for thousands of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, which rejected the offer.

Speaking on TV, Mr Obeida warned Tel Aviv: “Gaza will be a graveyard and a quagmire for the enemy, its soldiers and its political and military leadership.”

His threat came after Israel stepped up its attacks on Hamas in Gaza, with the Israeli military saying on Tuesday (October 31) it carried out a wide-scale strike on the Jabalia refugee camp, targeting Hamas infrastructure “that had taken over civilian buildings”.

Israel’s military said tunnels under the buildings had collapsed as a result of the strikes. Initial reports from Gazan authorites said 50 people were killed in the strikes and 150 wounded.

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Israel said two of its soldiers have been killed in fighting in northern Gaza, the first military deaths reported since the ground offensive into the Palestinian territory ramped up late last week.

Also on Tuesday, the Israeli military said ground troops gained control of a Hamas military stronghold in west Jabalia, killing 50 militants.

Hamas spokesman, Hazem Qassem, denied the claim, saying it was trying to justify “its heinous crime” against civilians.

More than 8,500 Palestinians have been killed in the war so far, mostly women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

The figure is without precedent in decades of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

More than 1,400 people have died on the Israeli side, mainly civilians killed during Hamas’ initial attack. This is also an unprecedented figure.

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Israel’s Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant, said on Tuesday the military was deploying forces “on a large scale, in the depths of Gaza”.

Referring to the deaths of two Israeli soldiers, he said: “Achievements on the battlefield have been very high. Unfortunately, in war there is also a price, and in the last day the price has been high.”

Israeli forces have reportedly advanced north and east of Gaza City. South of the city, Israeli troops were also trying to cut off the territory’s main highway and the parallel road along the Mediterranean coast, according to Dawood Shehab, a spokesperson for Islamic Jihad, a smaller militant group allied to Hamas.

The military said it has struck some 300 militant targets over the past day – including compounds inside tunnels – and troops had engaged in battles with militants armed with anti-tank missiles and machine guns.

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