Hamas cannot free captives until Israel-Gaza ceasefire: Official

The group needs time to locate captives taken to Gaza by various Palestinian factions, Hamas official tells Russia’s Kommersant newspaper.

Hamas hostages Israel
A women holds up a placard at a demonstration in Tel Aviv, Israel calling for the release of captives held by Hamas in Gaza [File: Al Jazeera]

An official of Hamas has said the group that rules Gaza could not release the Israeli captives it is holding until a ceasefire is agreed in the continuing conflict, according to Russia’s Kommersant newspaper.

The newspaper quoted an official called Abu Hamid as saying on Friday that the group needed time to locate all of those who had been taken to Gaza by various Palestinian factions during a Hamas-led attack on Israel on October 7, that prompted the war.

Abu Hamid, a member of a Hamas delegation that arrived in Moscow on Thursday, said that Hamas announced its intention to release “the civilian prisoners” since the first days of the war.

“Hundreds of citizens and dozens of fighters from various Palestinian factions entered the territories occupied in 1948, and … they captured dozens of people – most of them civilians,” he said.

“We need time to find them in the Gaza Strip and then release them,” the official added.

Abu Hamid also said that the Israeli air raids on Gaza have killed 50 of the captives.

Reporting from Moscow, journalist Yulia Shapovalova said the visit by the Hamas delegation was largely seen an attempt by Russia to declare that it is not on the sidelines of the conflict.

Moscow wants to show “it remains an important regional player, meeting the representatives of Hamas and trying to mediate the conflict”, she said.

She also said there is hope that a meeting that took place between Russian, Iranian and Hamas officials is expected to lead to the release of the three captives with Russian passports who are being held by Hamas.

Shapovalova added that Hamas did not make any comments on the possibility of freeing the captives in question.

Four captives freed

More than 200 captives are being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip after being captured during the Palestinian group’s October 7 onslaught, according to Israel.

Hamas on Monday freed two elderly Israeli civilian women from the besieged enclave following the release of two captives with dual US-Israeli nationality on Friday.

The mediation efforts between the two sides over the captives are led by Egypt and Qatar.

More than 7,000 Palestinians, including at least 2,913 children, have been killed in Israeli attacks targeting Gaza since October 7.

More than 1,400 people were killed in the Hamas attack on Israel, which started on October 7 and reportedly ended a day later.

Israel has cut off Gaza’s access to essential supplies, including fuel, as it carries out a bombing campaign that has destroyed entire neighbourhoods and brought humanitarian conditions to breaking point.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies