Two more hostages released by Hamas as airstrikes continue on Gaza

Two more civilian hostages have been released by Hamas on health grounds, as the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) continue to carry out airstrikes on Gaza.

The current conflict began just over two weeks ago on October 7, following an invasion of Israel by Hamas militants on October 7.

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Abu Ubaida, a spokesperson for Hamas, said in a statement on Telegram: “We decided to release them for humanitarian and poor health grounds.”

The women have been identified by the Times of Israel as Nurit Cooper, 79, and Yocheved Lifshitz, 85.

However, other outlets have identified the 79-year-old as Nurit Yitzhak.

Both women have been taken to an Israeli hospital for assessment.

Cooper and Lifshitz’s husbands are believed to remain in Hamas captivity.

The couples were taken captive on October 7 from their homes in Kibbutz Nir Oz, the Times of Israel reported.

Israeli hostages Yocheved Lifshitz and Nurit Cooper have been released by Hamas militants. Credit: AP

Judith and Natalie Raanan, a mother and daughter from the US, were previously released on Friday.

Ubaida previously claimed Hamas tried to release Cooper and Lifshitz on Friday after releasing the Raanans, saying the Israeli government refused to accept them.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called this “false propaganda” at the time, saying the Israeli government’s focus is bringing hostages home.

More than 200 hostages were taken by Hamas in the October 7 attack.

Hamas previously suggested they could be swapped for the almost 6000 Palestinians in Israeli custody before the attack.

This number is understood to have risen by several thousand since.

In 2011, Israel released more than 1000 Palestinian prisoners in return for the release of one Israeli soldier.

The exchange divided opinion within the Israeli community at the time.

Families tormented by Hamas

The families of those still held hostage by Hamas say the group is tormenting them by sending them photos of their loved ones in captivity.

Dafna Elyakim, 14 and Ella Elyakim, 8, were with their father Noam Elyakim and other family members in Israel when Hamas attacked two weeks ago.

Militants allegedly livestreamed the attack at the family’s home in Kibbutz Nahal Oz before kidnapping the girls. Their family members are understood to have been killed.

Their mother Maayan Tzin told 7NEWS she has since been sent photos of the girls in captivity.

Thousands rallied around the world on Sunday in Switzerland, England, the US and elsewhere demanding hostages be released.

Ongoing conflict

The IDF has massed forces near Gaza’s border since the Hamas attack on October 7 and vowed to wipe out the group.

It has already launched intensive air strikes on Gaza, where more than 5000 people have been killed and more than 15,000 wounded since the attack.

More than 1400 Israelis have also died, mostly in the October 7 attack.

An Israeli air strike on Monday hit homes in Gaza’s Al-Shati refugee camp, Reuters has reported.

Dozens of Palestinians were killed or wounded, the health ministry said.

“Many of the casualties are children and women who are still under rubble,” ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said.

Israel has issued repeated warnings for civilians to evacuate northern Gaza — including through flyers dropped on the city from the air over the weekend, stating anyone who did not vacate the north region would be declared a terrorist.

Dangerous lack of aid

The main crossing out of Gaza into Egypt, the Rafah crossing, has been used to deliver aid to Palestinians.

Three convoys have crossed into Gaza since Saturday, with about 20 trucks included in each convoy.

United Nations (UN) officials have warned that about 100 trucks are required daily to meet the needs of the more than two million people stranded in the Gaza Strip.

One of the three convoys contained enough water for 22,000 people, but only for one day.

The strip was now running dangerously low on fuel, United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said in a statement.

He estimated there were only three days left of fuel inside Gaza.

“Without fuel, there will be no water, no functioning hospitals and bakeries,” Lazzarini said.

“Without fuel, aid will not reach those in desperate need. Without fuel, there will be no humanitarian assistance.

“No fuel will further strangle the children, women and people of Gaza.

“Without fuel, we will fail the people of Gaza whose needs are growing by the hour, under our watch. This cannot and should not happen.”

Current aid efforts are “far from enough”, Lazzarini said.

He called on all parties involved to allow fuel supplies immediately into the area.

-With Ashlee Mullany, 7NEWS, and AAP

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