Hamas is expected to release two hostages with Russian citizenship on Wednesday in a gesture of “appreciation” for the position taken by Russian President Vladimir Putin since the terror group’s war against Israel began, a top Hamas official said.
It wasn’t immediate unclear if the two hostages also hold Israeli citizenship.
The announcement was made by Moussa Abu Marzouk, an official from the Hamas political wing.
Relatives of Israeli-Russian hostages being held captive by Hamas in Gaza went to Moscow this week to seek the Kremlin’s assistance in getting their family members released by the terror organization. Moscow assisted in the release of Roni Krivoi on Sunday.
Krivoi was released in a separate agreement from the hostage release agreement, apparently as a favor by the terror group to Moscow.
The rhetoric and actions of Russia since the beginning of the war have dissatisfied Israel.
The release of the two Russian citizens will be in addition to the 10 Israelis who are set to be released Wednesday as part of the temporary truce agreement between Israel and Hamas brokered by the US, Egypt and Qatar.
The initial four-day ceasefire, the first in over seven weeks in Israel’s war against Hamas, started Friday and had been due to expire Monday, but was then extended by two days. The deal, reached last week, provided for the release of 50 Israeli women and children abducted by Hamas during its October 7 attacks.
In the first four days, Hamas released a total of 30 Israeli children and 20 Israeli women of whom 10 are mothers of freed kids, along with Krivoi and 18 foreigners — 17 Thais and a Filipino — released as part of a separate, Iran-brokered deal.
On Tuesday, 10 more Israeli hostages were released and another two Thai nationals were set free in a separate agreement.
The original deal stipulated that the truce could be extended by more days — up to a total of 10 days, including the first four — if Hamas releases at least 10 additional hostages each day, with Israel freeing more Palestinian inmates at a ratio of three prisoners for each hostage.
Israel had freed 180 female and underage Palestinians serving time in Israeli prison for security offenses by Tuesday night, and is expected to release 30 more, all women and minors, on Wednesday if Hamas releases 10 more Israelis.
Given the provisions set out in the deal, the truce could potentially extend to Sunday, assuming more Israeli hostages are set free.
Israel would like to see all the remaining women and children held hostage in Gaza released over the coming days, and believes Hamas is still holding 30 to 40 women and children, including about 20 women aged 21 to 50, and at least nine children, the youngest of whom is 10-month-old Kfir Bibas, who was taken with his parents and four-year-old brother from Kibbutz Nir Oz on October 7. The Israel Defense Forces said Monday that Hamas transferred the family to another Palestinian terror group in Gaza.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his war cabinet colleagues and Israel’s security chiefs have all stressed that the twin declared goals of the war — to destroy Hamas and get back all the hostages — will be both be pursued until they are achieved.
On Sunday, Netanyahu said he told US President Joe Biden that he was open to extending the current truce, but once it was over, the IDF ground operation would resume. In a video statement, Netanyahu said he told the president: “At the end of the deal, we are returning full power to carry out our aims: destroy Hamas, ensure that Gaza won’t return to what it was, and of course to free all of our hostages.”
The war erupted with Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing some 240 hostages of all ages under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities. The vast majority of those killed as gunmen seized border communities were civilians — including babies, children and the elderly.
According to the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry in Gaza, more than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed since the war began, roughly two-thirds of them women and minors. However, the figures issued by the terror group cannot be independently verified, and do not differentiate between civilians and terrorists nor between those killed by Israeli military action and those killed by misfired rockets aimed at Israel that landed inside Gaza.