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Israeli hostage handover is under way in Gaza

Nov 30, 2023

Tel Aviv [Israel], November 30: The handover of more Israeli hostages by Hamas is underway in Gaza, a Palestinian official familiar with the truce efforts told Reuters on Wednesday, the final day of a two-day extension of a truce in the Gaza war.
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, an ally of Hamas, said earlier it had handed over several civilian hostages as part of an exchange deal that also involves the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
Gaza's Hamas rulers were expected to free at least 10 hostages on Wednesday under the terms of the truce agreement.
The reported handover was overshadowed by an unconfirmed claim by Hamas, the largest militant group in Gaza, that a family of Israeli hostages, including the youngest hostage, baby KfirBibas, had been killed during earlier Israeli bombardment.
Israeli officials said they were checking the Hamas report about the Bibas family, a very emotive issue in Israel where the family - 10-month-old Kfir, his 4-year-old brother Ariel and their mother Shiri - is among the most high-profile hostages.
Relatives of the Bibas family said they had been informed of the Hamas report. "We are waiting for the information to be confirmed and hopefully refuted by military officials," a statement from the Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum said.
The Israeli military said two Israeli hostages were freed on Wednesday in a move it said was additional to the scheduled releases, and were with Israeli special forces inside Israeli territory. After the two undergo an initial medical assessment, IDF soldiers will accompany them to hospitals to be reunited with their families, it said.
The hostages are among some 240 people seized by Hamas gunmen during a rampage into southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which they killed 1,200 people. Israel's bombardment of Gaza in retaliation has killed more than 15,000 Gazans, according to health authorities in the Palestinian enclave.
Two Palestinian officials told Reuters that talks were continuing over a possible extension of the truce, which is scheduled to expire early on Thursday, but no agreement had yet been reached.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking in Brussels on Wednesday, said he would work with the Israelis during a trip there in the coming days to see if the temporary ceasefire could be extended.
An Israeli official said earlier it would be impossible to extend the ceasefire without a commitment to release all women and children among the hostages. The official said Israel believed that militants were still holding enough women and children to prolong the truce by two to three days.
A Palestinian official said negotiators were hammering out whether Israeli men would be released on different terms than the exchange of three Palestinian detainees for each Israeli hostage that has applied to the women and children.
Source: Fijian Broadcasting Cooperation