GAZA – Hamas on Monday said it had freed two Israeli women who were among the more than 200 hostages taken during its October 7, 2023 rampage in southern Israel.
Sources said the United States had advised Israel to hold off on a ground assault in the Gaza Strip.
“We decided to release them for humanitarian and poor health grounds,” Abu Ubaida, spokesman for the armed wing of the Palestinian Hamas militant group, said on Telegram, according to Reuters.
The Israeli Prime Minister’s office issued a statement confirming that the women, whom it named as Nurit Cooper, 79, and Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, were handed over to the Israeli military and would be taken to a medical facility.
The two were kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Oz, near the Gaza border, along with their husbands, who were still held by Hamas, it added.
Hamas freed them after releasing an American woman and her daughter on Friday.
All four were seized in the October 7, 2023 cross-border assault in which the Islamist Hamas killed 1,400 people.
In public, the United States had stressed Israel’s right to defend itself but two sources familiar with the matter said the White House, Pentagon and State Department had stepped up private appeals for caution in conversations with the Israelis.
A United States priority was to gain time for negotiations to free other hostages, especially after Friday’s unexpected release of Americans Judith and Natalie Raanan on Friday, said the sources, who spoke before the hostage releases were announced on Monday.
Asked about the possibility of a ceasefire, United States President Joe Biden said: “”We should have those hostages released and then we can talk.”
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