Ceasefire in the balance as Israel waits for new list of hostages to be released

Hamas hands over 16 hostages to Israel from Gaza Strip

The Gaza ceasefire hung in the balance on Wednesday night with Israel threatening to resume fighting as early as Thursday after Hamas failed to present a list of the next hostages to be released.

After Wednesday night’s hostage release, which was delayed for many hours, Israel estimated that there were 25 Israeli children and women captives remaining in Gaza. “Israel is telling Hamas: return all 25 and then we will talk about the rest,” an Israeli official said.

Returning the women and children will buy Hamas an additional two days of ceasefire, during which time the sides could discuss a wider and longer truce, possibly involving the release of male hostages and soldiers in return for thousands of Palestinian prisoners.

An additional 10 Israeli hostages were released on Wednesday night, the sixth consecutive daily hostage release. Also released were two women – Yelena Trupanov (50) and Irena Tati (73) – who hold joint Israeli and Russian nationality, and four Thai nationals.


The hostages are among some 240 people seized by Hamas gunmen during a rampage into southern Israel on October 7th in which they killed 1,200 people. Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in retaliation has killed more than 15,000 Gazans, according to health authorities in the Palestinian enclave.

Among those released on Wednesday was 54-year-old Raya Rotem from kibbutz Be’eri, the mother of Hila, a good friend of nine-year-old Israeli-Irish national Emily Hand. Hila was released together with Emily at the weekend. Raya had taken care of Emily during their captivity in Gaza and the Hand family had campaigned for Raya’s release after Emily returned to Israel.

The four-day truce went into effect on Friday and was extended on Tuesday for an additional two days. The number of lorries bringing humanitarian aid and fuel into Gaza has increased to some 200 a day, but aid agencies say a lot more is needed to prevent a humanitarian crisis.

In the absence of a breakthrough, fighting was set to resume, with the Israeli military poised to complete its control over the northern Gaza Strip and extend the combat to south of the Gaza river, although it was hoped Hamas would produce the names to avoid a resumption of hostilities.

Meanwhile, Israel and Hamas, with Qatari, Egyptian and US mediation, are discussing a second, broader agreement that would also be longer in duration. Under discussion is an “all for all” deal – the release of all the Israeli hostages being held in Gaza in exchange for a large-scale release of Palestinian security prisoners who are incarcerated by Israel. But Hamas insists on a permanent end to the war and lifting the siege on Gaza, while Israel remains committed to what it terms “destroying” Hamas.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken arrives in Israel on Thursday to join Qatari and Egyptian efforts to extend the temporary truce.

Speaking at a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday, Mr Blinken said the continuation of the pauses would mean more hostages freed and more assistance getting into Gaza.

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Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem