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Israel frees 30 Palestinians as military confirms release of six Israeli hostages in Gaza

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Israel frees 30 Palestinians as military confirms release of six Israeli hostages in Gaza

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TEL AVIV — The Israeli military confirmed that six Israeli hostages have been released from captivity in the Gaza Strip.

And the Israeli prison service said a total of 30 Palestinians were released from Israeli prisons in Damon, Megiddo, Ofer, Nafha, Ktzi’ot and Ramon on Thursday.

The army said the Red Cross transferred the Israeli hostages to Egypt late on Thursday. They arrived hours after two additional hostages were turned over to Israel separately.

From Egypt, the newly freed freed hostages were to be transferred to Israel to be reunited with their families after nearly eight weeks in captivity.

It marked the seventh straight night of hostage releases under a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas.

Under the terms of the Israel-Hamas truce, Israel has to free three Palestinians for every Israeli hostage freed.

After a tense and lengthy back-and-forth on extending the truce into a seventh day, the Israeli government eventually accepted a proposal for Hamas to release eight new Israeli hostages on Thursday. Israel agreed to count two Israeli-Russian hostages who were set free on Wednesday as part of Thursday’s release, multiple sources familiar with the discussions told Kuwait Weekly.

Qatari foreign ministry spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari also reiterated the terms of the truce extension Thursday, stating Israel would release 30 Palestinians in Israeli prisons in exchange for the release of 10 hostages in Gaza — with the two Israeli-Russian nationals released on Wednesday counted on the list as part of the hostage deal.

Roughly 140 hostages are believed to remain in Hamas captivity.

Meanwhile, Hamas has claimed responsibility for a gun attack in Jerusalem that killed three people and left eight others wounded.

The Palestinian militant group called for an “escalation of resistance against Israel.”

Two brothers from East Jerusalem “sacrificed themselves by carrying out an operation” Hamas said in a statement.

Israeli police confirmed the gunmen had been shot and killed.

Authorities say the men were driving a car, one armed with an M-16 assault rifle and the other with a pistol, firing on the bus stop in West Jerusalem during rush hour.

Footage broadcast by Israeli television showed two men getting out of a white car and opening fire before being shot dead.

Israel’s Shin Bet security agency identified the brothers as 30 and 38-year-old. Both were affiliated with Hamas and had previously been jailed in Israel.

“The operation came as a natural response to unprecedented crimes conducted by the occupation,” Hamas said in a statement, citing Israel’s military offensive in Gaza and the treatment of Palestinian prisoners.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who arrived in Tel Aviv on Wednesday evening, said the attack was a reminder of “the terrorist threat that Israel faces on a daily basis.”

In a statement, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated the two soldiers and the civilian who intervened at the scene of the attack. “My government will continue to extend the distribution of weapons to citizens”, he said.

In mid-November, an Israeli soldier was killed and five members of the Israeli security forces injured in an attack at a roadblock separating Jerusalem from the West Bank, a Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967.

The attack was claimed by the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas. The three assailants were shot dead. — Agencies

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