(JTA) — Hamas has released 17 more hostages — 14 Israelis, including one U.S. citizen, and three foreign nationals — to the Red Cross as part of its agreement with Israel to pause the fighting in the Gaza Strip.
In total, the terror group has now released 40 Israeli hostages, nearly all of them women and children, to Israel as part of an agreement that includes a ceasefire in Gaza and the release of some 150 Palestinians in Israeli prison on security offenses. According to the deal, Hamas will release 50 Israeli hostages in exchange for a four-day pause in the fighting, but that truce could extend: Israel will continue the ceasefire for one additional day for every 10 hostages Hamas releases.
Hamas has released a total of 18 foreign hostages, nearly all of them Thai, under a separate agreement reached by the Thai government via Iran.
Sunday’s release came after a dispute between Hamas and Israel the previous day nearly scuttled the agreement. Hamas held off on releasing hostages on Saturday, accusing Israel of hindering the delivery of aid to Gaza, which Israel denied. The release took place close to a midnight deadline, following intervention by President Joe Biden and leaders of Qatar and Egypt.
Sunday’s release, for the first time, included a younger Israeli man. According to the Israeli publication Ynet, the Israeli hostages released Sunday include:
Abigail Mor Idan, 3, an American-Israeli citizen.
Hagar Brodutch and her children Ofri, 10, Yuval 8, and Uriyah, 4.
Sisters Dafna and Ela Elyakim, 15 and 8.
Chen Almog-Goldstein, 48, and her children Agam, 17, Gal, 11, and Tal, 9. Their husband and father, Nadav, was killed in the massacre, as was another child.
Aviva Siegel, 62, who immigrated to Israel from South Africa. Her American husband, Keith, is still being held hostage.
Alma Avraham, 84.
Roni Krivoi, 25.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue the fighting after the ceasefire ends, with the aim of deposing Hamas in Gaza. He visited Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip on Sunday.
The war began when Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking more than 200 hostage. Well over 100 hostages remain in captivity. Israel’s ensuing war on the terror group in Gaza has included a ground invasion and airstrikes. According to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza, more than 12,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war, a number that does not distinguish between civilians and combatants and does not specify casualties from misfired Palestinian rockets.
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Pope Condemns Anti-Judaism, Antisemitism Amid New Wave of Attacks Against Jews
Pope Francis condemned all forms of anti-Judaism and antisemitism, labeling them as a “sin against God,” after noticing an increase in attacks against Jews around the world.
“(The Church) rejects every form of anti-Judaism and antisemitism, unequivocally condemning manifestations of hatred towards Jews and Judaism as a sin against God,” the pontiff wrote in a letter to the Jewish population of Israel dated Feb. 2 and made public on Saturday.
“Together with you, we, Catholics, are very concerned about the terrible increase in attacks against Jews around the world. We had hoped that ‘never again’ would be a refrain heard by the new generations,” he added.
The Pope noted that wars and divisions are increasing all over the world “in a sort of piecemeal world war,” hitting the lives of many populations.
Francis, 87, has condemned Hamas’ Oct. 7 cross-border attack from Gaza into southern Israel. He has also said on several occasions that a two-state solution was needed to put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In his letter, the pope also called, once again, for the release of those hostages still being held by militants.
He said his heart was torn at the sight of the conflict in the Holy Land and the division and hatred stemming from it, adding that the world was looking at the unfolding of events in the area with “apprehension and pain.”
He assured the Jewish community of his closeness and affection, “particularly (those) consumed by anguish, pain, fear and even anger,” repeating his call for the end of the war.
Francis said he prayed for peace. “My heart is close to you, to the Holy Land, to all the peoples who inhabit it, Israelis and Palestinians, and I pray that the desire for peace may prevail in all.”
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Israel Says It Has Struck More than 50 Hezbollah Targets in Syria Since Oct 7
The Israeli military said on Saturday that since the outbreak of the Gaza war on Oct. 7 it had struck more than 50 targets in Syria linked to the Iranian-backed Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.
The remarks, in a briefing by chief military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari that mainly discussed efforts to beat back Hezbollah attacks launched in solidarity with Hamas, were a departure from Israel’s usual reticence about Syria operations.
“Everywhere Hezbollah is, we shall be. We will take action everywhere required in the Middle East,” Hagari said.
Israeli forces have attacked 34,000 Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, including 120 border surveillance outposts, 40 caches of missiles and other weaponry and more than 40 command centers, Hagari said. He put the number of enemy dead at more than 200.
Hagari said Israel had deployed three army divisions along its side of the Lebanese border in anticipation of Hezbollah getting involved after Palestinian Hamas launched a shock cross-border attack on Oct. 7, triggering the war in the Gaza Strip.
With tens of thousands of its northern residents having evacuated, Israel has threatened to escalate the Lebanon fighting unless Hezbollah backs off from the border – and has sought Western help in finding a diplomatic solution in Beirut.
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American Bases Attacked Within Hours of Retaliatory Strikes in Iraq
i24 News – American bases once again came under attack by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and missiles, according to Shahab news agency, just a few hours after extensive retaliatory strikes by the United States against Iranian-backed militias in Syria and Iraq.
Following the death of three American soldiers by a drone strike in Jordan, the U.S. carried out strikes against 85 targets located at seven locations in the region, as well as imposing fresh sanctions and reportedly a cyber attack on Iranian targets.
American officials told The New York Times that the U.S. conducted covert cyber-operations against Iranian targets, but declined to provide further details. Though there were overt sanctions on officials from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) cyber division, including the department’s commander Hamid Reza Lashgarian, as well as on companies reportedly supplying the offensive programs.
Furthermore, the Saudi AlHadath channel reported that a senior commander of the Iranian-backed militias was killed in one of the U.S. strikes in Iraq. While other reports indicate that the attacks will result in “significant damage” to the capabilities of the targeted groups, with initial estimates of six dead and 11 wounded.
U.S. President Joe Biden described the operation as striking “targets at facilities in Iraq and Syria that the IRGC and affiliated militia use to attack U.S. forces. Our response began today. It will continue at times and places of our choosing.”
“The United States does not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world. But let all those who might seek to do us harm know this: If you harm an American, we will respond,” Biden concluded.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force and affiliated militia groups continue to represent a direct threat to the stability of Iraq, the region, and the safety of Americans. We will continue to take action, do whatever is necessary to protect our people, and… pic.twitter.com/Y53nvRfjjx
— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) February 3, 2024
General Michael E. Kurilla, the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) commander, posted on X a video of a B-1 bomber taking off, and wrote “Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force and affiliated militia groups continue to represent a direct threat to the stability of Iraq, the region, and the safety of Americans. We will continue to take action, do whatever is necessary to protect our people, and hold those responsible who threaten their safety.”
According to reports, some of the arsenal used were long-range bombers like the B-1 that flew from the continental United States to carry out the attacks. National Security Council spokesman, John Kirby, said “there will be additional response action taken in coming days”.
In addition, some reports indicate the Jordanian Air Force participated in the strikes.
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