Hamas frees 2 US hostages, even as Israel airstrikes continue in southern Gaza

AP October 21,2023 - 11:23 AM

In this photo provided by the Government of Israel, Judith Raanan, right, and her 17-year-old daughter Natalie are escorted by Israeli soldiers and Gal Hirsch, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s special coordinator as they return to Israel from captivity in the Gaza Strip, Friday, Oct. 20, 2023.  (Government of Israel via AP Photo)

HAMAS has freed two American hostages who had been held in Gaza since militants rampaged through southern Israel on Oct. 7, the Israeli government said.

The hostage release Friday came even as Israeli airstrikes continued to hit southern Gaza, an area swelled by civilians who fled there from the north on Israeli instructions.

Israel was also evacuating a sizable town near the Lebanese border in the latest sign of a potential ground invasion of Gaza that could trigger regional turmoil.

READ: Explainer: What do we know about the Hamas hostages?

Palestinians in Gaza reported heavy airstrikes in the southern city of Khan Younis, where civilians had been told to seek safety amid Israel’s bombardment of areas closer to the Israeli border.

The U.N. secretary general is at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza trying to find a way to get badly needed aid into the enclave.

The war is the deadliest of five Gaza wars for both sides. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said Friday that 4,137 Palestinians have been killed and more than 13,000 others wounded.

More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, mostly in the initial attack on Oct. 7 when Hamas militants stormed into Israel.

In addition, 203 people were believed captured by Hamas during the incursion and taken into Gaza, the Israeli military has said.

The Israel-Hamas conflict has so far claimed the lives of four Filipinos, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

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TAGS: Gaza Strip, Hamas, hostages, Israel, Palestine

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