Hamas said it would begin releasing foreigners held hostage in Gaza in “the coming days.”
Gunmen reportedly hold some 240 people captive in Palestinian enclave after their capture during Hamas’ bloody attack on Israel on October 7.
Five hostages have been freed so far, offering hope to the families of other hostages kidnapped in southern Israel during the militants’ deadly rampage.
Abu Obeida, spokesman for Hamas’ military wing, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, said: “We informed the intermediaries that we would release a number of foreigners in the coming days.”
Monday October 30, Tel Aviv announced that it had saved its first hostage, soldier Ori Megidish. The rescue came after Hamas freed American citizens Judith Raanan, 59, and her daughter Natalie, 18.
Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, and Nurit Cooper, 79, were also released, although their husbands remain captive in Gaza.
Hamas said it would let the others go in exchange for thousands of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, which rejected the offer.
Speaking on television, Obeida warned Tel Aviv: “Gaza will be a cemetery and a quagmire for the enemy, its soldiers and its political and military leaders.”
His threat came after Israel intensified its attacks on Hamas in Gaza, with the Israeli army saying on Tuesday (October 31) that it had carried out a large-scale strike on the Jabalia refugee camp, targeting Hamas infrastructure “which had taken over civilian buildings.” .
The Israeli military said tunnels under buildings collapsed following the strikes. Initial reports from Gaza authorities put 50 dead and 150 injured in the strikes.
Israel said two of its soldiers were killed in fighting in northern Gaza, the first military deaths reported since the escalation of the ground offensive in the Palestinian territory late last week.
Also on Tuesday, the Israeli military said ground troops took control of a Hamas military stronghold west of Jabalia, killing 50 militants.
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem denied the claim, saying he was trying to justify “his heinous crime” against civilians.
So far, more than 8,500 Palestinians have been killed in the war, most of them women and children, according to Gaza’s health ministry.
This figure is unprecedented in decades of Israeli-Palestinian violence.
More than 1,400 people died on the Israeli side, mostly civilians killed in the first Hamas attack. This is also an unprecedented figure.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Tuesday that the army was deploying forces “on a large scale, deep into Gaza.”
Referring to the deaths of two Israeli soldiers, he said: “The achievements on the battlefield were very significant. Unfortunately, in war there is also a price, and over the past few days the price has been high.
Israeli forces reportedly advanced north and east of Gaza City. South of the city, Israeli troops were also trying to cut off the territory’s main highway and the parallel road along the Mediterranean coast, according to Dawood Shehab, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, a small militant group allied with Hamas.
The army said it had struck some 300 militant targets over the past day – including compounds inside tunnels – and that its troops had engaged in fighting against militants armed with anti-tank missiles and machine guns.