Hamas is reportedly claiming that it will ‘protect’ its hostages taken during the war with Israel and will only release them ‘when circumstances on the ground allow.’
The comments surfaced Monday in a video message from Abu Obeida, whom Reuters says is the spokesman of the Palestinian terrorist group’s armed wing. Israel says Hamas is holding 199 Israelis hostage, while 13 Americans remain unaccounted for.
Obeida said Hamas has ‘a group of detainees of different nationalities, these are our guests and we seek to protect them,’ according to Reuters.
‘We will release detainees of different nationalities when circumstances on the ground allow,’ he reportedly added, without elaborating.
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The news agency also reported Monday that senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk said that ‘foreign prisoners cannot be released due to the continued Israeli bombing of the Gaza Strip.’
Separately, former Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal – who last week called for protests worldwide in support of Palestinians – told the AlAraby TV channel that the group ‘has what it needs to empty the prisons’ of Palestinians being held captive in Israel, according to Reuters.
The statements come as Hamas on Monday released a video purportedly showing one of its foreign captives.
In the footage, a woman who is seen being treated for an arm injury identifies herself as 21-year-old Mia Schem and asks to be returned to her family as soon as possible, Reuters reports.
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The news agency says a representative from her family – who was among a group of French residents who appealed last week to President Emmanuel Macron for help – confirmed Schem’s identity.
For days, Israel has maintained a blockade of the Gaza Strip, preventing food, water, medicine and fuel from entering the region occupied by around 2.3 million people.
Israeli Energy and Infrastructure Minister Israel Katz has said the blockade will end if Hamas releases the hostages. But as of Tuesday, the terrorist group has not acted on that offer.
As of Tuesday, at least 4,200 people have been killed in the war on both sides, including at least 1,400 Israeli civilians and soldiers and 30 Americans.
Palestinian health authorities say at least 2,808 Palestinians have been killed and more than 10,950 wounded.