Sun. Dec 10th, 2023

With updates from Rushdi Abu Alouf in Gaza; Lyse Doucet, Lucy Williamson and Nick Beake in southern Israel; Jeremy Bowen, Yolande Knell, Tom Bateman, Alice Cuddy and Joel Gunter in Jerusalem; Anna Foster in northern Israel; and Hugo Bachega in southern Lebanon

Israeli hostages to be used as ‘leverage’ – ex-Hamas chief

The former Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal has said the group of Israeli hostages being held in Gaza includes “high-ranking officers from the Gaza Division” (of the IDF).

Israel has said Hamas is holding 199 people who were taken from Gaza when Hamas attacked Israel on 7 October.

A short while ago, a Hamas spokesperson claimed the group was holding between 200 and 250 people.

Meshaal, who heads Hamas’ diaspora office, also said the group would spare no effort in using the captives as leverage to free 6,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, Reuters news agency reports.

There have been early reports of Qatar-led negotiations on the release of hostages, but those were denied by Israel and Hamas.

Hamas is a Palestinian militant group is a proscribed terrorist organization in the UK, the US and the European Union.

A Palestinian girl whose family fled their home in Gaza said she “can’t even describe the condition” they are living in.

It comes after thousands of people in northern Gaza were told to make their way south by the Israeli government ahead of an anticipated ground offensive.

Rahaf, who is now in Khan Younis, said: “There is no clean water. There’s no water to even wash our faces. We’re all oppressed. We can’t endure this anymore.”

She described seeing blood and bodies on the streets, and how she tries to calm her siblings when they hear explosions by telling them the sounds are from a “wedding ceremony”, that they are “normal”.

She hoped she would have something to eat today, after her father waited three hours at a bakery yesterday for some bread, amid a dwindling supply of food and water in the region.