Israel-Hamas updates: Hamas frees third group of hostages, including 4-year-old US girl, says willing to extend truce

Monday, 27 November 2023 (11:33 IST)
Following the news that Hamas had released a third group of hostages, Israel's prison service confirmed 39 Palestinian prisoners had been released on Sunday. Both sides had agreed to the exchange under the terms of a truce agreement.

A fourth prisoner exchange is expected to take place on Monday, which is also the fourth and final day of the scheduled truce.
International mediation efforts led by the US, Egypt and Qatar are seeking an extension of the cease-fire.
The halt in fighting is the first since Israel declared it was at war with the Hamas militant group, following the terror attacks launched on October 7.
Biden says 4-year-old US girl freed after 'terrible trauma'
A 4-year-old American girl has been freed from Gaza, US President Joe Biden said on Sunday.
"She's free and she's in Israel now," said the US leader.
"She's been through a terrible trauma," Biden said of the 4-year-old, whose parents were murdered by Hamas militants when members of the Islamist group launched a large-scale terror attack on Israel on October 7.
The girl was among 13 people released by the militant group in the third round of exchanges on Sunday.
Israel summons Irish ambassador over PM's hostage release comments
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen has said he has summoned Ireland's ambassador over a social media post made by Prime Minister Leo Varadkar earlier Sunday.
Varadkar was celebrating the release of 9-year-old Emily Hand, who had been held hostage by the Hamas militant group since October 7.
Hand was initially thought to have been killed when Hamas launched its terror attacks, but it later emerged that the militants had abducted the young girl and taken her into Gaza.
"This is a day of enormous joy and relief for Emily Hand and her family. An innocent child who was lost has now been found and returned, and we breathe a massive sigh of relief," Varadkar posted on social media platform X, formerly Twitter. "Our prayers have been answered."
Israel has objected to Vardakar saying Hand had been "lost," and his comment elicited a furious response from Israel's foreign minister.
"Mr. Prime Minister, It seems you have lost your moral compass and need a reality check! Emily Hand was not 'lost,' she was kidnapped by a terror organization worse than ISIS," Cohen posted in response.
Cohen then said he had summoned Ireland's ambassador to Israel for a reprimand.
Varadkar has supported Israel's right to defend itself, but earlier in November he said Israel's actions in Gaza now "resembles something more approaching revenge."
Hamas hints at extending truce with Israel
The Hamas militant group has said it would be willing to extend the four-day pause in fighting if serious efforts are made to free more Palestinians.
The truce began on Friday, with Hamas releasing groups of hostages on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 
Israel has responded by freeing Palestinian prisoners from its jails. 
On Sunday, US President Joe Biden said his goal was to extend the cease-fire for as long as possible.
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna told French broadcaster BFMTV that she was also hoping for an extension.
"We demand the release of our hostages and all the hostages. It would be good, helpful and necessary for the truce to be extended to this end," Colonna told BFMTV.
Earlier, Israel said the truce could be extended by an extra day for every additional 10 hostages freed, but has vowed to quickly resume its offensive once it ends.
This position was reaffirmed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a phone call with Biden on Sunday.
Netanyahu told Biden he would welcome prolonging the truce if 10 hostages are freed per day, but added that "at the end of the deal, we are returning full power to carry out our aims," according to a report in The Times of Israel.
These aims include destroying Hamas, ensuring that "Gaza won't return to what it was" and freeing the hostages, Netanyahu was quoted as saying.
Germany's Steinmeier says Berlin stands 'in solidarity' with Israel
On a visit to Jerusalem, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Israel was left fighting for its existence after the October 7 terrorist attacks by Hamas militants.
"We stand in solidarity with Israel," Steinmeier said at a joint press conference with Israeli President Isaac Herzog.
"It is not only with Israel as a victim of terror. Our solidarity is also with the Israel that defends itself, that fights against an existential threat," Steinmeier added. 
"The terrorist organization Hamas must never be allowed to achieve its declared goal, namely the annihilation of Israel."
Hamas has been classified as a terrorist organization by Germany and the European Union, along with the United States and many other countries.
However, Steinmeier also added that it was necessary to protect civilians in the besieged Gaza Strip.
Steinmeier and his wife, Elke Büdenbender, who accompanied him on his trip to Israel, are reportedly close friends with Herzog and his wife Michal.
Herzog called Steinmeier a "true friend" and said his visit was "an expression of the firm alliance between our countries."
Elon Musk to meet Israeli president and hostage families on Monday
Elon Musk, the world's richest man, is set to meet Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Monday along with Israelis whose relatives have been held by Hamas in Gaza.
The office of Israeli President Isaac Herzog confirmed the meeting on Sunday night.
"In their meeting, the president will emphasize the need to act to combat rising antisemitism online," Herzog's office said in a statement.
Musk has recently been accused by civil rights groups of amplifying anti-Jewish hatred on his social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
Israel's Channel 12 TV reported that Musk would also meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israel-linked tanker seized off Yemen coast freed, US officials say
A US Navy warship responded to a distress call from a commercial tanker in the Gulf of Aden that had been seized by armed individuals but is now safe, US officials said.
They did not identify the attackers.
The AP news agency has reported that the vessel, Central Park, was Liberian-flagged and managed by Zodiac Maritime, part of Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer's Zodiac Group.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that the destroyer USS Mason had responded to the distress call.
Early Monday morning, Zodiac said the vessel carrying phosphoric acid and its crew of 22 sailors were "unharmed."
"We would like to thank the coalition forces who responded quickly, protecting assets in the area and upholding international maritime law," the company said.
It offered no details on how the attackers left the vessel, nor did it identify them.
The incident is the latest in a series of attacks in Middle Eastern waters since a brutal war between Israel and the Palestinian militant-Islamist group Hamas broke out on October 7.

Read on Webdunia

Related Article