According to Al Jazeera, Hamas released two American hostages held in Gaza on Friday, offering a “sliver of hope” to desperate families, as Israel continued pounding the densely-populated territory where millions are still awaiting promised aid deliveries. The fate of the hostages has been shrouded in uncertainty, so the release of mother and daughter, Judith Tai Raanan and Natalie Shoshana Raanan, offered a rare “sliver of hope”, said Mirjana Spoljaric, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Deutsche Welle reports US Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed that the two American hostages released by militant group Hamas for “humanitarian reasons” will be met by US Embassy officials in Israel. Blinken confirmed that there were 10 further Americans missing and that some of them were among those currently being held captive by Hamas militants.nmHe called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of all hostages. The Islamist group took more than 200 people hostage when it stormed into Israel from the Gaza Strip on 7th October and killed at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli officials.
Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas, and Times of Israel reports around 1,500 of the group’s fighters were killed in clashes before its army regained control of the area under attack on October 7. Its military campaign has so far leveled entire city blocks in Gaza, killing more than 4,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. Israeli troops have massed on the border with Gaza ahead of an expected ground invasion that officials have pledged will begin “soon”.
Guterres appeals for ‘sustained’ humanitarian access
Al Ahram reports that during a visit to the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing on Friday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed for the immediate delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza. He stressed that it is a matter of life and death for millions of Gazans. Standing at the Rafah crossing, some 175 trucks, loaded with humanitarian aid – medical supplies, food and blankets – were lined up, waiting for entry into Gaza but blocked by Israel. “We absolutely need to have these trucks moving as quickly as possible and as many as necessary,” the UN chief said, adding that there needed to be trucks entering “every day into Gaza to provide enough support for the Gazan people”.
EU under pressure
Euronews says pressure has increased on the European Union to help find practical solutions to spare lives in Gaza, as the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for a “humanitarian pause”. The resolution, which carries no legal weight, comes after the United States vetoed a similar text by the UN Security Council calling for humanitarian pauses to deliver lifesaving aid to millions in Gaza. But Arab countries’ ambassadors to the EU have denounced the bloc’s lack of decisive action and its failure to call for a ceasefire.
Biden claims Hamas attacked to stall Israel-Saudi Arabia thaw
According to CNN, President Joe Biden has said he believed Hamas’s attack on Israel two weeks ago was aimed at disrupting warming ties between the country and Saudi Arabia. “One of the reasons why they acted like they did… (was) because they knew I was about to sit down with the Saudis,” Biden told guests at a campaign fundraiser. “The Saudis wanted to recognise Israel… unite the Middle East,” he said. Momentum toward a landmark US-brokered deal to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia was shattered by the 7th October attack by Hamas militants on Israel.
Ukraine reported to have attacked 2 Russian military bases
British military intelligence says Ukraine has carried out attacks on two military bases in Russia, destroying up to 15 helicopters in total at Luhansk and Berdyansk airfields. The Telegraph says Ukraine claimed it used the US-supplied long-range tactical missiles known as ATACMS for the first time. “Given that Russian fixed-wing close air support to date has been extremely poor, Russian defensive lines have become increasingly reliant on rotary wing support in the face of the Ukrainian offensive,” the Ministry of Defence said on Thursday.
Meloni splits with partner
Il Mattino reports Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni has separated from her partner, who is also the father of her seven-year-old daughter, after a television show played a recording of him asking a female colleague for a threesome. Meloni, a hard-right politician elected after promoting the importance of traditional family values, made the announcement on Instagram on Friday morning. The show, Striscia La Notizia, aired the recording of Andrea Giambruno, a television journalist with the Mediaset network, propositioning the woman. Names mentioned on the tape, which was probably made when Giambruno, 42, was wearing a microphone in the studio, were bleeped out.
A biopic for Maria Callas
London’s The Times says Maria Callas is the latest star to be given the Hollywood treatment in a biopic, Pablo Larraín’s “Maria”, with Angelina Jolie in the title role. The film – the screenplay of which was written by Steven Knight – best known for Peaky Blinders – looks at her final moments alone in her apartment in Paris, with her glory days far behind her. Callas herself has become a myth – a fabled figure whose heart was broken by Aristotle Onassis, the Greek billionaire and her partner of nine years, when he married Jacqueline Kennedy. Her biographer, who has access to unseen documents, reveals the icon’s tumultuous childhood, toxic relationships, drug abuse – and her death at just 53. Legend has it that she lost her voice and died from a broken heart.
Main photo: Government of Israel/Handout via REUTERS