Hamas official says ceasefire needed before hostages can be freed

Hamas official says ceasefire needed before hostages can be freed

MOSCOW (Reuters): The Palestinian Hamas group that controls Gaza cannot release hostages seized during its attack on Israel until a cease-fire is agreed, the Russian newspaper Kommersant quoted a member of a Hamas delegation visiting Moscow as saying.

It cited Abu Hamid as saying Hamas needed time to locate all those taken from Israel to Gaza by various Palestinian factions in a Hamas attack on Oct. 7.

“They seized dozens of people, most of them civilians, and we need time to find them in the Gaza Strip and then release them,” Hamid said.

Kommersant quoted him as saying a calm environment was needed to complete this task. Hamas said on Thursday around 50 of the hostages had been killed in Israeli air strikes.

Israel urged Russia on Thursday to expel the visiting Hamas delegation, calling their invitation to Moscow “deplorable.”

Russia has ties to all the key players in the Middle East, including Israel, Iran, Syria, Hamas, and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority which exercises limited self-rule under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank.

It has repeatedly blamed the crisis on a failure of US diplomacy, and called for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas and the resumption of talks aimed at finding a peace settlement.

Separately, TASS news agency reported on Friday that another senior member of the Hamas delegation in Moscow, Abu Marzouk, had held talks with Iran’s deputy foreign minister Ali Baghiri Kani, who is also visiting the Russian capital.

The two discussed efforts to secure a cease-fire in Gaza and deliver humanitarian aid to its residents, and Baghiri Kani also reaffirmed Tehran’s strong support for the Palestinian cause, TASS said, citing Iranian embassy sources in Moscow.