Iran Claims Hamas Willing to Release 199 Hostages If Air Strikes on Gaza Stop

Iran Claims Hamas Willing to Release 199 Hostages If Air Strikes on Gaza Stop
Smoke rises from buildings, viewed from the Israeli side of the border, as the Israeli military conducts a bombardment in northern Gaza on Oct. 15, 2023. (Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed on Monday that the Hamas terrorist group was “ready” to release all of its hostages held captive in the Gaza Strip if Israel ended its campaign of airstrikes on the coastal enclave.

Speaking at a news conference in Tehran, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said Hamas members informed him that they’re “ready to take necessary measures to release the citizens and civilians held by resistant groups,” but added that doing so would be “impossible under daily bombardment by the Zionists against various parts of Gaza.”

Hamas, however, hasn’t acknowledged making such an offer, which comes as the United Nations (U.N.) also called on the Iran-backed terror group on Monday to release its hostages.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed on Monday that nearly 200 hostages are being held captive in Gaza—a number much greater than the 100 to 150 hostages previously estimated.

IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari announced that the military has notified the families of all 199 hostages taken by Hamas and informed them that their loved ones are being held in Gaza, The Times of Israel reported.

“We are making valiant efforts to try to understand where the hostages are in Gaza, and we have such information,” Mr. Hagari said at a news conference in response to a question. “We will not carry out an attack that would endanger our people,” he added.

The hostages, which include many elderly Israelis, women, and children, were abducted by Hamas when the terrorist group fired thousands of rockets into Israel as large numbers of terrorists sneaked into the country on Oct. 7. The surprise attack killed more than 1,200 Israelis.

Hamas has reportedly said it will trade the hostages for thousands of Palestinians held by Israel in the vein of lopsided deals that have been reached in the past.

“We heard from the resistance that they have no problem to continue resisting,” the Iranian diplomat said, referring to Hamas. “They said the resistance holds the military capability to continue resisting in the field for a long time.”

Mr. Kanaani made the remarks about a day after Hamas terrorists claimed at least nine hostages were killed in Israeli air strikes, which Israel has rebuffed as propaganda, saying it has its own information.

Iran also warned that it could enter the Israel–Hamas war if Tel Aviv launches its widely anticipated ground offensive in the Gaza Strip in the coming days.

Additionally, Lebanese Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah has already dived into the conflict by launching missiles into Israel, but it insists that the move represents a “warning” for Israel rather than its entering the conflict. Hezbollah, which is also sponsored by Iran, is designated as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany, and others.

UN Urges Hamas to Release Hostages

“As we are on the verge of the abyss in the Middle East, I have two humanitarian appeals: To Hamas, the hostages must be immediately released without conditions. To Israel, rapid & unimpeded access for humanitarian aid must be granted for the sake of the civilians in Gaza,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in an Oct. 16 post on X.

“Each one of these two objectives are valid in themselves,” he added. “They should not become bargaining chips and they must be implemented because it is the right thing to do.”

Israel has cut off supplies of food, fuel, electricity, and medicine into Gaza as it called for Palestinian civilians to evacuate ahead of its planned military bombardment to rid Hamas from the Gaza Strip. It has vowed to maintain the siege until all hostages are freed by Hamas.

The United States has also confirmed that there are Americans among the scores of hostages held by the Islamic terrorist group. The United States is engaging with Israel to rescue the hostages, President Joe Biden said last week. However, White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Oct. 12 that the administration has no plans to send U.S. troops to Israel.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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