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Can Hamas locate remaining hostages in mayhem of Gaza war?

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Can Hamas locate remaining hostages in mayhem of Gaza war?



Ever since it seized more than 200 people in the deadly rampage through southern Israel that triggered the Gaza war, Hamas has hoped to use hostages as bargaining cards with Israel in order to win freedom for Palestinians in Israeli jails.

But as mediators try to secure extensions to a truce between Israel and Hamas to enable more hostage releases, the Palestinian terrorist group may struggle to locate more captives in the chaos of the conflict, Palestinian and Egyptian security sources familiar with the talks said.

While Hamas planned and launched the Oct. 7 attack, other terrorists quickly joined in, pouring into Israel and seizing more people. Hamas says it is working to locate them in a Gaza Strip shattered by weeks of Israeli bombardment.

Hamas may also be holding back information, the sources said. Mediator Egypt believes Hamas is concealing some of what it knows, and saying it needs to do so for security reasons and as a negotiating strategy, Egyptian security sources said.

Network of tunnels

Hamas has said the hostages were being treated well, in line with Islamic teachings. They are believed to be in a vast network of tunnels that Hamas has built over the years.

An IDF soldier secures a tunnel underneath Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, amid the ongoing ground operation of the Israeli army against Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in the northern Gaza Strip, November 22, 2023. (credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)

But the Israeli air strikes, which flattened entire neighborhoods, may have cut off passages between tunnels, making it difficult for Hamas to find hostages.

One Palestinian source said the bombardment “complicated” the situation in the field.

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The bodies of at least two hostages have been recovered by Israeli forces in Gaza and Hamas has said that more than 60 hostages were missing due to Israeli air strikes.

Islamic Jihad, another Iran-backed Palestinian terrorist group, has said they have more than 30 captives, indicating there could be 20 who might be held by members of smaller groups.

The hostages have ranged from a baby and young children to grandmothers and soldiers, some taken from kibbutzim, others from a music festival.

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad took part in a prisoner swap on Tuesday, which suggests that Hamas may be collecting hostages from other groups.

One Israeli source with knowledge of the issue said Hamas was estimated to be holding 90% of the hostages.

“It’s their responsibility to find the other 10%,” the source said.

Asked whether Hamas was capable of locating all the other hostages, the source said: “They are capable of anything inside the strip. The question is whether they want to.”

“It’s convenient for them to say that they’re not holding all of them so that they can buy time.”

Hamas official Khalil Al-Hayya said the group would be able to meet conditions to extend a truce if they could locate more captives.

Even if Hamas is able to find all the remaining hostages, it is unlikely to turn over information because the captives give the terrorist group leverage, a Western source in the Gulf said.

Some may have perished in the fighting.

“It’s highly likely that there were a lot of hostages taken out in those air strikes,” the source said.

Hostages seized during rampage

The hostages released so far were among some 240 people seized by the terrorists during the Oct. 7 raid, which Israel says killed 1,200 people. Israel’s bombardment of Hamas-ruled Gaza in retaliation has killed more than 15,000 Gazans, Hamas-run health authorities there said.

The heads of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Israel’s Mossad met Qatar’s prime minister in Doha on Tuesday to discuss the truce between Israel and Hamas.

Officials in the meeting talked about a possible new phase of the truce agreement including Hamas releasing hostages who are men or military personnel, not just women and children, a source said.

Qatar spoke to Hamas before the meeting to get a sense of what the group might agree to, the source added.

A screenshot from a video of Hamas taking hostages into Gaza on October 7. In this video, the terrorist drags the Israeli hostage by her hair from the trunk of the vehicle to the backseat while crowds gather and cheer. The crotch of the hostage’s pants is bloodstained, and her right Achilles tendon (credit: screenshot)

About 159 hostages remain in Gaza.

Two Palestinian sources close to truce efforts said the talks are focused at present on swapping non-soldiers – meaning Israeli civilians, dual nationals, and foreigners, but no talks about the soldiers are underway.

The soldiers “have different types of prices,” Hamas says.

One of those prices would be for Israel to “clear all prisons,” meaning all Palestinians jailed in Israel.

About 5,000 Palestinians were being held by Israel before Oct. 7, but Israel has since rounded up around 3,000, almost all from the West Bank, said the Palestinian Prisoners Club, which documents and cares for all Palestinian detainees.

Some have been held without trial in what Israel calls “administrative detention.” Some are children, held for such actions as throwing stones, while others are accused of stabbing attempts on Israelis.

Hamas is well aware that it has in the past secured the release of large numbers of prisoners in return for one soldier.

In 2011, Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was freed after five years in captivity in return for freedom for 1,027 Palestinians held in Israeli jails for carrying out attacks against Israelis.

Shalit was captured by Palestinian terrorists who tunneled into Israel and took him across the frontier into Gaza.

Hamas and Israel were expected to release more hostages and prisoners on Wednesday, the last day of an extended six-day truce in the Gaza war. Mediator Qatar is trying to negotiate another extension.

Israel has said the truce could be prolonged further, provided Hamas continues to free at least 10 Israeli hostages per day.

But with fewer women and children still in captivity, keeping the guns quiet beyond Wednesday may require negotiating to free at least some Israeli men for the first time.

Palestinian sources said Hamas was able to gather some hostages with smaller groups, but it is unclear whether the Islamic Jihad would carry its own swaps or conduct them through Hamas.

Israeli spokesman Eylon Levy said on Wednesday the government held Hamas fully responsible for the abduction of everyone held inside Gaza.

“We’re demanding that Hamas bring them back and do everything in order to bring them back,” he said.





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Iranian FM: Israeli weapons are ‘toys for our children to play with’

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Iranian FM: Israeli weapons are ‘toys for our children to play with’



Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian joked a day after Israel’s strikes in Iran that the weapons used were “more like toys that our children play with – not drones,” according to a Saturday article from Iran’s semi-official Mehr News Agency. 

Making the comments in an interview with NBC News, Abdollahian said “As long as there is no new adventurism by Israel against our interests, then we are not going to have any new reactions.”

Threats against Israel

“If Israel takes a decisive action against my country and this is proven to us,” he said, “our response will be immediate and to the maximum and will cause them to regret it.”

The foreign minister went on to threaten that his comments were only a warning, and that “We could have hit Haifa and Tel Aviv… We could have also targeted all the economic ports of Israel.” 

The IDF displays an Iranian ballistic missile which they retrieved from the Dead Sea after Iran launched drones and missiles towards Israel, at Julis military base, in southern Israel April 16, 2024. (credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)

Abdollahian said that the only reason that Iran had not successfully hit Haifa, Tel Aviv or any major port was because Iran’s “red lines [were] civilians…We only had a military purpose.”

A 7-year-old Arab girl was killed during Iran’s mass drone attack which saw hundreds of UAVs and multiple ballistic missiles fired seemingly randomly at Israel. While few Iranian aerial assault weapons successfully hit Israel, one hit a northern Arab village and one hit Arad- which is where the 7-year-old girl was killed. 





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White House urges Congress to quickly send foreign aid bill to Biden’s desk

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White House urges Congress to quickly send foreign aid bill to Biden’s desk



Passing the national security supplemental bills would send a powerful message about the strength of American leadership at a pivotal moment, the White House Office of Management and Budget said in a statement released Friday morning as the House continues debates on rules for proceeding with the bills. 

The supplemental funding package provides long overdue funding to support Ukraine as it continues defending itself against Russia’s brutal war of aggression. Ukraine must prevail, the White House said. 

This supplemental funding also helps Israel protect its people against Hamas and Iran and its other proxies, including Hezbollah.

The White House’s statement

“It is critical that we quickly help Israel replenish its air defenses following Iran’s recent brazen and unprecedented attack and ensure Israel maintains its military edge against Iran or any other adversary,” according to the statement. 

A MURAL in Tel Aviv depicts US President Joe Biden as a superhero defending Israel against the Iranian attack. On the strategic level, Israel suffered a whopping loss as Iran pierced American and Israeli deterrence frameworks with apparent impunity, the writer maintains. (credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)

The funding would also provide urgent life-saving humanitarian assistance for Palestinian civilians in Gaza and vulnerable people suffering around the world, the statement said, as well as critical support to Indo-Pacific partners. 

“The world is watching what the Congress does,” the White House said. “The Administration urges both chambers of the Congress to quickly send this supplemental funding package to the President’s desk.”





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American money ear-marked for PA security used to pay families of terrorists from Jenin – report

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American money ear-marked for PA security used to pay families of terrorists from Jenin – report



The Palestinian Authority’s General Security Service (GIS) has apparently admitted to using American money earmarked for security to pay the family of terrorists from Jenin, according to a Palestinian Media Watch report.

According to the report, on April 4, 2024, PA news agency WAFA published that the GIS in Jenin had given a grant to “the families of the Martyrs and the prisoners from the service’s ranks in the district.”

The GIS gave grants to around 36 families from among the “martyrs and prisoners.”

The vast majority of those identified as “martyrs” or “prisoners” were members of the GIS who had committed acts of terror, according to the PMW.

The grant was given at the direction of PA General Intelligence Chief Majed Faraj, who emphasized a core principle of Mahmoud Abbas: “If we are left with one penny, it will be paid to the families of the Martyrs and the prisoners.”

Taylor Force, 29, was killed by a Palestinian terrorist who went on a stabbing rampage in Jaffa on March 8, 2016 (credit: FACEBOOK)

Taylor Force Act

The US had all but ceased providing funds for the PA after the implementation of the 2017 Taylor Force Act, which blocked all funding for the PA general budget.

The act was named for Taylor Force, an American citizen killed in a terror attack in 2016, where the attacker’s family received money from the PA’s pay-for-slay program.

The exception to this was the funding of the PA’s security sector, which received around $45 million in 2022, according to the State Department’s website.

The PMW says that this money was then used to not only provide funds for terrorists and their families but also to train PA security forces, many of whom end up involved in terrorism, according to PA statements in 2023.

The PMW charge that US funds are now being used to directly fund and train terrorists in the West Bank.





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