Hamas hands over Israeli hostages to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza City, Nov. 27, 2023. (Photo/JTA-Stringer-Anadolu via Getty Images)
Hamas hands over Israeli hostages to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza City, Nov. 27, 2023. (Photo/JTA-Stringer-Anadolu via Getty Images)

Israel-Hamas truce set to extend as 11 more hostages are released

(JTA) — Hamas released 11 Israeli hostages, the last of four groups it agreed to free last week and an indication of how difficult it may be for Israel to secure the freedom of the rest of the hostages held by terror groups in Gaza.

Hamas has so far freed 51 Israeli hostages, nearly all of them women and children. The 11 hostages released on Monday belong to five separate families, each of which is returning to Israel without their husband or father. All five men are still being held hostage in Gaza. along with more than 150 other Israelis who were taken captive in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

Israel agreed to a temporary ceasefire that began on Friday to secure the hostages’ release, and on Monday, the Biden administration announced that the truce would last at least another two days, which means that Hamas has agreed to free another 20 Israeli women and children. But there is no agreement yet on when men will be released, and Israel has vowed to resume its war in Gaza after the truce ends, with the aim of deposing Hamas.

In addition to the ceasefire, Israel has agreed to release three Palestinian prisoners — also women and minors — in exchange for each hostage. Israel has also increased the entrance of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip as a condition of the deal with Hamas.

President Joe Biden, who has resisted calls to pressure Israel into a longterm ceasefire, said he wants more time to ensure humanitarian aid reaches civilians in Gaza.

“The United States has led the humanitarian response into Gaza—building on years of work as the largest funder of humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people,” he said Monday in a statement. “We are taking full advantage of the pause in fighting to increase the amount of humanitarian aid moving into Gaza, and we will continue our efforts to build a future of peace and dignity for the Palestinian people.”

The 11 hostages released Monday were from Nir Oz, a kibbutz that was among the communities hardest hit in the Oct. 7 attack. They include:

  • Sharon Cunio, 34, and her twin 3-year-old daughters, Emma and Yuli. Their father, David, 34, remains among the hostages. Sharon’s sister, Danielle Aloni, and Danielle’s 5-year-old daughter, Emilia, were also abducted; they were among the hostages released on Friday.
  • Sahar Kalderon, 16, and her brother, Erez, 12. Both are dual French-Israeli citizens. Their father, Ofer, remains a hostage. They are the grandchildren of Carmela Dan, who was murdered with her autistic grandaughter Noya — a cousin to Sahar and Erez.
  • Or Yaakov, 16, and his brother Yagil, 13. Their father, Yair, 59, remains a hostage along with his girlfriend, Meirav Tal, 54.
  • Karina Engel, 53, and her daughters Mika, 18, and Yuval, 11. Their father, Ronen, 54, remains a hostage.
  • Eitan Yahalomi, 12, was released. His father, Ohad, remains a hostage and is believed to have been wounded in a shootout with terrorists.
Ron Kampeas

Ron Kampeas is the D.C. bureau chief at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.