US has ‘working list’ of hostages it says will likely be released first by Hamas, close source says

by MMC
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Washington
CNN

US officials have a work list of 10 hostages they say will likely be released from Gaza on day one, a close source told CNN. It was unclear whether any of the three American hostages – including three-year-old Abigail Edan – would be released on the first day.

The working list includes 10 people whom Hamas had offered to release earlier in the negotiations. The list includes information such as gender, nationality and age, but the names of the individuals have never been offered.

The agreement is structured in such a way that each day, a group of hostages to be released would be handed over to the Red Cross; the Red Cross would then take the group to a designated border point, which will largely depend on the location of these hostages, the close source said. Most of the first 50 hostages are expected to pass through Egypt, they said.

A source familiar with how the hostages are expected to leave Gaza told CNN that the first exchange was expected to take place on Thursday. However, Israel’s National Security Council later said the break would be delayed and no hostages were expected to be released before Friday.

“The talks to free our hostages are progressing and continuing. The start of the release process will take place in accordance with the initial agreement between the two parties, and not before Friday,” the Israeli National Security Council said in a statement.

Fifty Israeli hostages – some with dual nationality – are expected to be released during the four-day break. 10 is the minimum number of hostages to be released each day, but the number could be higher.

Each evening, before the liberation the next day, Israel and Hamas will communicate to the Red Cross the list of names of the hostages and prisoners released.

The hostages will be brought by the Red Cross to Rafah where they will be greeted by specially trained Israeli soldiers. They will verify that the released hostages were indeed the people expected and appearing on the list. The families of the hostages will not be informed until the identity of those released has been confirmed.

The hostages will then be transported by helicopter to several designated hospitals in Israel, where special areas and rooms will be reserved for them, closed to the public. There, their families will finally be able to see them after more than six weeks of captivity.

The first two days following the hostages’ release will be treated as a “testing period”, the source said, to ensure the process works. On the third day, intense discussions are expected to take place on the possible second phase of hostage release beyond the initial group of 50 people.

“The first exchange is the most crucial to ensure that the mechanism works as agreed,” the source said.

Regarding the remaining hostages, including Israeli soldiers, Hamas had initially attempted to designate all Israeli women under the age of 45 as soldiers, given that women must serve in the Israeli military and are often reservists, the source said. Israel rejected this proposal and both sides agreed that only women in uniform at the time of their abduction would be designated as soldiers.

As part of the agreement, the Red Cross should be able to visit and offer medical support to the hostages remaining in Gaza, the source said.

White House Middle East and North Africa coordinator Brett McGurk told CNN’s Boris Sanchez on Wednesday that he could not speak to the timetable for releasing Americans. He confirmed that three American hostages – Edan and two women – are expected to return home among the 50 hostages released by Hamas. In total, 10 Americans are believed to be hostages.

“I was asked earlier if we know if the 50 are alive and well. We understand they’re alive, but they’re definitely not doing well,” McGurk said. “These 50 women, children and young children, it’s just unimaginable what they’ve been through, but we’re going to make sure they get the care they need when they get home.”

McGurk said he “hopes” the Red Cross will have access to the other hostages, but noted, “I can’t confirm or guarantee that.”

McGurk suggested the humanitarian pause and hostage releases could continue beyond the initial four-day period, saying they “had some assurances” on that.

“For this humanitarian pause to continue, we need to see more hostages come out,” he said. “We have some assurance that even beyond the four-day period, on the fifth or sixth day, we will meet that benchmark of extending the humanitarian pause at least by several days, but I cannot guarantee that. »

“We have to see and once again we are dealing here with Hamas, a terrorist group, which has toddlers and babies at the other end of the table,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Supreme Court “has now given the (hostage) deal the green light to move forward,” paving the way for the process to move forward this week, McGurk said.

Asked on “CNN News Central” whether there were concerns about releasing Palestinian prisoners, McGurk noted that “the Israelis are balancing a number of different goals and risks and they have determined that releasing Palestinian prisoners in These circumstances, after a thorough debate within their government was the way to go.

“And I know that this was discussed today in the Israeli Supreme Court and I understand that the Supreme Court has now given the green light for the agreement to move forward,” he said.

A senior Israeli official told CNN on Tuesday that there was a 24-hour window after the deal was announced to appeal to the court.

The Supreme Court has rejected a legal challenge to the Gaza hostage deal, which provides for the release of at least 150 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

The Almagor association, created in 1986 to represent victims of terrorism, had affirmed that the government’s decision, among a series of objections, intensified the risk of “the repetition of serious acts of terrorism to which all citizens and residents of the country countries are exposed.

Almagor had asked the Supreme Court “to overturn the government’s decision… (and) to order (the government) to re-discuss the terms of the agreement with Hamas”, according to information released by the court.

The court said it categorically rejected the request on the grounds that the hostage transaction “is an obvious political issue in which the court does not consider its involvement necessary.”

The decision eliminates any legal objection in Israel to the execution of the agreement which involves the exchange of Israeli hostages in Gaza for the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons.

This story and its headline were updated with additional developments Wednesday.

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