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More hostages freed by Hamas to return to Israel

A helicopter carrying free Israeli hostages (Getty Images)
A helicopter carrying free Israeli hostages (Getty Images)

Six more hostages have been handed over to the Red Cross by Hamas, according to Palestinian officials.

The Israeli military said they were on their way back to Israel.

Among them is Ilana Gritzewsky, one of the two Mexican hostages held in Gaza, according to Mexican Foreign Minister Alicia Barcena.

She thanked the Qatari government for its "invaluable mediation" and said Mexico was still working to liberate the other hostage, Orion Hernandez.

They are the latest batch of hostages freed during the ceasefire between Israel and the terror group who took more than 200 prisoners during their attack on October 7.

This release comes after two women hostages were handed over earlier on Thursday with 21-year-old Mia Schem, who was seized at a dance party along with many of the other hostages abducted into Gaza, and 40-year-old Amit Soussana taken to safety in Israel.

A Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesman said 30 Palestinians would be released in exchange for 10 hostages with that number including two Russian citizens freed yesterday.

The cease-fire is set to expire early Friday, though international mediators are working to extend it.Roughly 140 hostages are believed to remain in Hamas captivity.

Earlier in the day, Israeli President Isaac Herzog asked United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to use his "political weight" to help free all of the hostages held by the Palestinian militant group in Gaza.

Herzog made the request during a meeting with Sheikh Mohamed in Dubai, according to a statement issued by the Israeli president's media office.

"The President appealed to his friend Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to employ his full political weight to promote and speed up the return home of the hostages," it said.

Herzog, whose role is largely ceremonial and which lacks executive powers, is in the Gulf state to attend the U.N. climate summit, known as COP28, which runs from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12.

It is his first overseas trip since the cross-border attack by Hamas gunmen which Israel has said killed around 1,200 Israelis and foreigners and took about 240 hostage into Gaza.

Israel has vowed to resume the fighting — with the goal of dismantling Hamas — once the cease-fire ends.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Israel's military operations in southern Gaza must not repeat the massive loss of civilian life and displacement seen during its offensive in the north.

At a news conference in Tel Aviv following a marathon day of meetings with senior Israeli leaders, Blinken said he laid out clear steps for Israel to minimise civilian casualties but did not say if was assured the steps would be taken.

"We discussed the details of Israel's ongoing planning and I underscored the imperative for the United States that the massive loss of civilian life and displacement of the scale that we saw in northern Gaza not be repeated in the South," Blinken said.

Gazan authorities say Israel's bombardment - retaliation for Hamas' deadly rampage - has so far killed more than 15,000 people in the enclave run by the Palestinian militants.

Hostage talks appear to be growing tougher, with Hamas having already freed most of the women and children it kidnapped on October 7. The militants are expected to make greater demands in return for freeing scores of civilian men and soldiers.