Israel expects at least 2 more months of fighting against Hamas: Defence Minister

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Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said that the country’s war with the Hamas is expected to last for at least two more months despite the four-day humanitarian pause agreed by the two sides slated to begin on Friday. “This will be a brief pause. When it ends, the fighting will continue forcefully and will create pressure that will allow the return of more hostages,” CNN quoted Gallant as saying while visiting Israeli troops on Thursday. “A fighting of at least two more months is expected,” he added.

The Israeli military has said the hostage handover process will be “complicated”, warning there could be changes in the deal at any moment. Addressing the media on Thursday, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said that “nothing is finalised until it’s actually happening. “And even amid the process, changes might occur at any moment,” he said. The spokesperson also confirmed that the Israeli army continues to fight in the Gaza Strip “at this hour,” pointing out that once the pause goes into effect, the IDF soldiers will be stationed along the “truce lines” established inside the strip.

The truce line effectively keeps Israeli troops in northern Gaza, and they won’t move south during the pause in fighting, an IDF spokesperson told CNN. Meanwhile, Israel has notified the families of the hostages set to be released on Friday, the country’s coordinator for hostages and missing persons, Gal Hirsch, said in a statement. Hirsch said, “Liaison officers have informed all of those families whose loved ones appear on the list, as well as all of the hostages’ families”. Israel has published a list of 300 names of people eligible for release in the exchange.

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The vast majority are male teenagers aged between 16 to 18, although a handful are as young as 14. The first hostages expected to be released will include members of the same families leaving together, Qatar Foreign Ministry spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari said in a news conference earlier Thursday. “They will be 13 in number, all women and children, and those hostages who are from the same family will be put together in the same batch,” CNN quoted Al-Ansari as saying. The Hostages and Missing Families Forum, a group set up in response to the Hamas attack on Israel, lists 201 Israelis believed to be alive and held hostage in Gaza since October 7.

That list of Israeli hostages includes 39 children aged 18 and under; 44 adult women and 89 adult men aged 19 to 64; and 29 people aged 65 and over. The youngest is Kfir Bibas, who is 10 months old; the oldest are Yafa Adar, Shlomo Mansour and Arye Zalmanovich, who are all 85. According to the IDF, the estimated total number of hostages — which includes Americans and other foreign nationals — fluctuates with the latest intelligence, but stood at 236 earlier this week. A Palestinian official with a lead role in the planned prisoner release CNN that he has not yet received a list of names of those expected to be freed on Friday. Qadura Fares, the head of the Palestinian Commission for Detainees and Ex-Prisoners’ Affairs, indicated that he expected about 30 to 35 people to be released as a first group.

All prisoners would be released at the Beitunia checkpoint, which is immediately south of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, he said. Some 33 people on the list are women.