Nov 28, 2023 - World

Hamas frees 12 hostages amid talks on possible second extension of Gaza ceasefire

Hamas hands over 11 Israeli hostages to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza City, Gaza on November 27, 2023. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Hamas hands over nearly a dozen Israeli hostages to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza City on Nov. 27. Photo: Stringer/Anadolu via Getty Images

Hamas on Tuesday freed 10 more Israeli hostages and two Thai nationals after the militant group and Israel agreed to extend the pause in fighting in Gaza by two days.

State of play: CIA director Bill Burns is meeting with Mossad director David Barnea, Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel and Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed Bin Abdul Rahman al-Thani on Tuesday to discuss a possible second extension of the pause in the fighting in Gaza if Hamas releases more hostages.

  • Sources briefed on the issue said the meeting is part of an effort by Qatar, Egypt, the U.S. and Israel to make the most out of the current deal, including by possibly extending the pause by up to an additional three days in exchange for the release of another 10 hostages per day. That could bring the total number of Israeli hostages released under the deal to 100.
  • Without another extension, the pause would only last until the end of Wednesday.
  • The sources said the three intelligence chiefs and the Qatari prime minister are also discussing initial ideas for a potential new deal that would see the release of men and soldiers who are being held hostage by Hamas.

Yes, but: During the talks in Doha, the Mossad director told his counterparts that Israel won't agree to any discussion on a new hostage deal before the current one is fully implemented and all women and children who are held hostage are released, an Israeli official told Axios.

  • Israel believes Hamas is still holding 30 to 40 women and children, including about 20 women aged 21 to 50, and it expects them to be released in the coming days as part of a possible extension of the pause.
  • "It might be possible to reach separate agreements around other groups of hostages but Israel made clear it can only happen after the current deal is fully implemented and all women and children are released," the official said.

The big picture: Thirty Palestinians held in Israeli prisons were also released on Tuesday.

  • The releases come after Hamas freed 50 Israeli hostages and Israel released 150 Palestinian prisoners over the initial four-day pause of the deal.
  • Israel is also continuing to allow more fuel and an increased number of trucks carrying aid into the enclave as part of the extension.

Zoom in: The hostages released since Friday so far include 4-year-old Israeli American Abigail Edan.

  • Hamas has also freed more than a dozen Thai nationals, one Filipino, and one Russian Israeli as part of separate agreements.
  • More than 240 people, including several Americans, were abducted during the Oct. 7 terrorist attack. At least 1,200 people were killed in the attack, according to Israeli officials. Prior to the most recent releases, four hostages, including two Americans, were freed, one was rescued and two others were found dead.
  • White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Monday that U.S. officials believe that seven to nine Americans are among those still held hostage in Gaza.

Zoom out: The pause in fighting has offered a short reprieve to the more than 2.2 million Palestinians living in Gaza who had been under Israel's heavy bombardment since the war began.

  • At least 14,800 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Ministry of Health in Hamas-run Gaza.
  • Aid groups have welcomed the increased aid levels but have also warned that it is only a fraction of what is needed to address the dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details throughout.

Go deeper