Hamas sees all its hostages as Israelis, official tells Russian state media

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Moscow (Reuters) – Hamas officials visiting Moscow were quoted by Russian media on Friday as saying the militant group viewed all its hostages as Israelis, whatever additional passports they held, and could not release any of them until Israel agreed to a ceasefire.

Hamas Politburo member Abu Marzouk told state news agency RIA that Russia, the United States, France, Spain, Italy and many others had appealed for the release of their nationals from among more than 200 hostages that Hamas seized in a cross-border rampage into Israel on Oct. 7.

He said Hamas viewed Moscow’s request “more positively and attentively than the others, given the character of our relations with Russia”.

RIA quoted him as saying that Hamas did not view its captives as Russian, French or American. “All those captured, for us, are Israelis, although there is an appeal to their original citizenship in the hope this will save them,” he said.

Another member of the delegation, Abu Hamid, told Kommersant newspaper that Hamas needed time to locate all those taken to Gaza by various Palestinian factions in the Oct. 7 attacks that killed 1,400 people.

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Russia’s ambassador to Israel said this week that three Russian-Israeli citizens were thought to be among the hostages.

Israel said on Wednesday that more than half the hostages held by Hamas have foreign passports from 25 different countries. Many were believed to have had dual Israeli nationality, however some almost certainly did not.

Russia on Friday defended its decision to invite the Hamas delegation to Moscow against strong Israeli criticism, saying it was necessary to maintain contacts with all sides in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

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Israel, which has vowed to wipe out Hamas in retaliation for the Oct. 7 attack, has described the decision as “deplorable” and urged Moscow to expel the delegation.

MAINTAINING CONTACTS

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Hamas delegation had met with representatives of Russia’s foreign ministry but not with President Vladimir Putin or Kremlin officials.

“We consider it necessary to continue our contacts with all parties and, of course, we will continue our dialogue with Israel,” he told reporters.

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 U.S. diplomacy.

Russia’s embassy in Israel issued a statement in which it reiterated Moscow’s call for an immediate ceasefire, the release of all hostages held by Hamas and the delivery of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, which Israel is heavily bombarding ahead of an expected ground invasion. Officials in Gaza say more than 7,000 Palestinians have been killed.

Peskov ruled out any risk of Russia being drawn into the conflict after U.S. fighter jets on Friday struck weapons and ammunition facilities in Syria in retaliation for attacks on U.S. forces by Iranian-backed militia.

But he added that the U.S. strikes would further stoke tensions across the region. “This is very bad,” he said.

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