Hamas claims it will free some hostages with foreign passports in coming days

Terror group’s spokesman denies IDF rescued soldier Megidish from its forces, implying she was held by other faction; Thai FM discusses efforts to free its nationals with Qatari PM

Israelis look at photographs of hostages held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, outside the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv, October 30, 2023. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Israelis look at photographs of hostages held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, outside the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv, October 30, 2023. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Hamas said Tuesday that the terror group will release a number of hostages with foreign nationalities abducted during its October 7 massacre in the upcoming days.

The terror group’s military wing spokesperson, who goes by his nom de guerre Abu Obeida, said the decision has come as a result of the mediation of “some countries.”

“We have informed intermediaries that we will release a certain number of foreigners in the next few days,” Abu Obeida said in a televised address.

Hamas has previously said it does not plan to keep foreign hostages. Israel has rejected such a differentiation and called for the immediate and unconditional release of all the hostages and dismissed Hamas promises as a form of psychological warfare.

In his statement, Abu Obeida denied that Israel had freed Israel Defense Forces soldier Ori Megidish from Hamas captivity on Monday, implying that Megidish was abducted and held by another terror group.

Around 50 of the hostages are said to be in the hands of terror groups other than Hamas, most notably Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The claim cannot be verified.

IDF soldier Pvt. Ori Megidish (center) with her family after being rescued from Gaza, October 30, 2023. (Shin Bet)

Weighing in on Israeli domestic affairs, the terror group’s spokesman claimed the war would mark the end of the political career of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, boasting that if he managed to free only one hostage one month into the war, it would take him another 20 years to free the rest of them.

In total, at least 245 civilians and soldiers were kidnapped on October 7, of whom four were released by Hamas in moves brokered by Qatar, a crucial mediator, as it hosts both a US military base and Hamas’s political bureau. Megidish was rescued by Israeli security forces.

During their October 7 onslaught, 2,500 gunmen from Hamas and allied terror groups broke through the Gaza border in a multipronged attack and killed over 1,400 people, most of them civilians slaughtered in their homes and at an outdoor music festival.

In response to the massacres, Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas, which rules Gaza, and to pursue every avenue to secure freedom for all of the hostages. Alongside intense strikes, the IDF has sent troops and tanks into the Gaza Strip but has limited its ground offensive, apparently in order to avoid endangering efforts to free the hostages.

As the IDF has intensified its operation in Gaza, Hamas is thought to be employing various psychological techniques to sow division and weaken Israelis’ resolve, while using the negotiations for the release of the captives it is holding to buy time and resources for its military campaign.

Meanwhile, Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani told Thailand’s visiting Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara Tuesday that efforts were ongoing to secure the release of hostages, including the 22 Thais abducted during Hamas’s devastating onslaught.

Bahiddha-Nukara took an urgent trip to Qatar and Egypt for talks on the fate of its nationals held captive in Gaza.

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said Monday his government was working hard to get them home.

File: A relative hugs a Thai worker who was evacuated from Israel, on his arrival at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Samut Prakarn Province, Thailand, October 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

He dispatched the foreign minister to meet the Qatari prime minister in Doha on Tuesday, before talks with the Egyptian foreign minister on Wednesday.

Sheikh Mohammed, who also serves as Qatar’s foreign minister, noted his country’s continued efforts to “mediate the release of prisoners, despite the complexity of these efforts,” during his meeting with Parnpree.

This was “due to the escalation of air strikes and the ground incursion of Israeli forces into the Gaza Strip,” the Qatari Foreign Ministry said.

It added that “the high number of civilian casualties calls for an immediate ceasefire.”

About 30,000 Thais had been working in Israel, many in the agricultural sector, when the conflict erupted.

At least 32 Thais have been killed in the conflict and 19 wounded, according to the ministry.

“We are more like victims of the war,” Srettha told reporters. “We have been more affected because there are more workers from Thailand in Israel than from other countries.”

Srettha said the government would provide financial help for Thais wanting to return home from Israel.

“The reason why Thais won’t return to Thailand is because of money,” he said. “We are providing financial aid of 50,000 baht [$1,400] per person, including those who already returned,” Srettha said.

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