Hamas released two more civilian hostages on Monday, but negotiations to free a group of 50 captives hit a barrier because Hamas insists that Israel must allow fuel deliveries into Gaza. Hamas mentioned that they released the two hostages, who were elderly women, for humanitarian reasons. Egyptian officials confirmed that this release took place at the Gaza-Rafah border crossing.
Hamas, Qatar, Egypt, and Israel have been having discussions recently. They’re considering a deal where a larger group of hostages would be released in exchange for a steady supply of humanitarian aid, including fuel. Israeli officials have stated that they want all hostages to be released before allowing the delivery of fuel. They are concerned that Hamas and other militant groups might use the fuel for military purposes.
Three officials reported that, Negotiations are in an advanced stage, but Israel hasn’t agreed to allow fuel to be sent to Gaza through Egypt.The Israeli prime minister’s office has identified the two women as Yocheved Lifshitz and Nurit Cooper. They were kidnapped by Hamas fighters during an attack on the Nir Oz kibbutz on October 7. According to the prime minister’s office, their husbands are still held in Gaza. After their release, the two women were taken to a medical center, as confirmed by the Israeli prime minister’s office.
After the attack on October 7, Israel had imposed a complete blockade on Gaza, cutting off the supply of fuel, food, electricity, water and medicine. Humanitarian aid began flowing into Gaza on the same day when two U.S. citizens were released. On Monday, a third aid convoy brought medical supplies, some food and bottled water into Gaza. Hamas indicated that they would consider releasing up to fifty hostages, potentially including foreign nationals. Among those still held in Gaza, there are at least 15 Americans. However, fuel has become a major obstacle in the negotiations with Hamas. Israeli officials have previously stated that they won’t allow fuel to enter the Gaza Strip.
The unexpected release of two American hostages on Friday night has increased pressure on the Israeli government to allow negotiations with Hamas to continue before considering a land assault on Gaza. To show this pressure, families of the hostages met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Sunday evening to push for their demands. Supporters gathered outside the president’s residence, holding signs that read “BRING THEM HOME” and softly singing a Hebrew song with the lyrics “hear my voice.”
After the meeting with Herzog, Jonathan Polin, the father of an Israeli-American hostage, Hersh Goldberg-Polin, who was wounded and taken captive, expressed his thoughts. He mentioned that the government had conveyed messages about caring and making this the top priority, but it’s been 2 weeks, and they haven’t seen concrete actions yet.
Over the weekend, Hamas stated that it offered to release two Israelis captured during their raid, but Israel’s government declined. Israel dismissed this claim as “false propaganda. ” According to a person familiar with the negotiations, this offer had only been communicated through the media.