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Release of hostages needs ceasefire, Hamas official says

GAZA/MOSCOW: A Hamas official tied the release of hostages held in Gaza to a ceasefire in Israel’s bombardment of the enclave, launched after a deadly rampage by Hamas militants into southern Israel nearly three weeks ago.

Israel says it is preparing a ground invasion, but has been urged by the US and Arab countries to delay an operation that would multiply the number of civilian casualties in the densely populated coastal strip and might ignite a wider conflict.

Two US fighter jets struck weapons and ammunition facilities in Syria on Friday (Oct 27) in retaliation for attacks on US forces by Iranian-backed militias since the Gaza war erupted.

An opinion poll published on Friday suggested almost half of Israelis now wanted to hold off on a ground invasion out of fears for at least 224 hostages reported to be held there.

The Russian newspaper Kommersant quoted a member of a Hamas delegation visiting Moscow as saying time was needed to locate all those who had been abducted by various Palestinian factions in the Hamas attack on Oct 7.

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“They seized dozens of people, most of them civilians, and we need time to find them in the Gaza Strip and then release them,” Abu Hamid said.

He said Hamas, which has freed four hostages so far, had made clear it intended to release “civilian prisoners”.

But this required a “calm environment”, he said, repeating an assertion that Israeli bombing had already killed 50 of those held.

Palestinian militants clashed with Israeli troops in at least two areas inside the Gaza Strip, the latest of several small-scale incursions, Hamas-affiliated media reported, though the Israeli military did not immediately confirm the reports.

Residents of central Gaza said they had heard an apparent exchange of fire as well as heavy shelling and air strikes along the border, with Israeli planes dropping flares and bombs.

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