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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Two additional hostages released from Gaza

Medical aid from the World Health Organization arrives at Nasser Medical Hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, Monday, Oct 23, 2023.

By The New York Times

Hamas released two additional hostages Monday, according to the group and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Their release, which Hamas said was for “humanitarian and health reasons,” came three days after the group set free an Israeli American mother and daughter. More than 200 others are believed to still be held.

“We facilitated the release of two more hostages, transporting them out of Gaza this evening,” the ICRC said in a statement. “Our role as a neutral intermediary makes this work possible, and we are ready to facilitate any future release. We hope that they will soon be back with their loved ones.”

Buying more time to negotiate the release of hostages held by Hamas and other armed groups in the Gaza Strip was part of the Biden administration’s rationale in advising Israel to delay a ground invasion of Gaza, according to U.S. officials. But as aid continued to trickle in Monday and a small percentage of the hostages were released, the conditions remained dire in the Hamas-run territory.

The death toll in Gaza rose sharply Monday, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, after Israel said it had struck hundreds of targets in the territory in one of the biggest barrages of airstrikes in recent days.

The Israeli military also said it had attacked Hezbollah positions in Lebanon, even as President Joe Biden led an international diplomatic effort to try to ensure the conflict does not ensnare other nations in the region.

In a joint statement Sunday, Biden and the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany and Italy urged Israel to protect civilians as it defended itself, and called for the release of all hostages believed to be held in Gaza. The Gaza Health Ministry said Monday that Israeli airstrikes had killed at least 436 people “in the past hours,” bringing the death toll to more than 5,000 since Oct. 7, when Israel began retaliating for an attack by the Hamas militant group that killed 1,400 people.

On Sunday, Biden also spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. The two leaders, according to a White House statement, affirmed that “there will now be continued flow” of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Here are some other developments:

— The Israeli military said it had notified the families of 222 people who were kidnapped during Hamas’ attack and are believed to be held in Gaza, more than the 212 people it had confirmed a day earlier. The count of hostages has risen as the army has collected more information, including about the many foreign citizens who were kidnapped.

— Aid workers began distributing relief supplies in southern Gaza as a third convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid began crossing in from Egypt. The United Nations said a convoy comprising 14 trucks entered Gaza on Sunday, following 20 trucks that arrived Saturday.

— It remained unclear when or if Israel will invade Gaza, but senior Israeli commanders increasingly have been making public references to preparations for a ground assault, which is crucial to its goal of eliminating Hamas — an objective the United States still supports. For days, Israel has been telling residents of Gaza to move southward for their own safety, even as its airstrikes hit the southern part of the territory.

— On Oct. 17, The New York Times published news of an explosion at a hospital in Gaza City, leading its coverage with claims by Hamas government officials that an Israeli airstrike was the cause and that hundreds of people were dead or injured. The early versions of the coverage and its headlines did not make clear that Hamas’ claims could not immediately be verified, leaving readers with an incorrect impression about what was known and how credible the account was.

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