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Israel Hamas war: Two American hostages freed as Israeli airstrikes continue in southern Gaza

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Copyright AP Photo
By Joshua AskewGiulia Carbonaro
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Follow live updates of the Israel-Hamas war.

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Israel says Hamas has freed two American hostages who had been held in Gaza since militants rampaged through southern Israel on the 7th of October. The hostage release Friday came even as Israeli airstrikes continued to hit southern Gaza, an area swelled by civilians who fled there from the north on Israeli instructions.

Israel was also evacuating a sizable town near the Lebanese border in the latest sign of a potential ground invasion of Gaza that could trigger regional turmoil, Kiryat-Shmona has a population of 20,000 people.

Palestinians in Gaza reported heavy airstrikes in the southern city of Khan Younis, where civilians had been told to seek safety amid Israel's bombardment of areas closer to the Israeli border.

Meanwhile, French military intelligence assessed on Friday that the most probable hypothesis for the explosion at Gaza City’s al-Ahli Hospital was that it was caused by a Palestinian rocket that was carrying an explosive charge of about 5 kilograms that possibly misfired.

Several rockets in the arsenal of the Palestinian militant group Hamas carry explosive charges of about that weight, including an Iranian-made rocket and another that is Palestinian-made, said a senior French military intelligence official.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the intelligence assessment, cleared to do so by President Emmanuel Macron in what was described as an attempt to be transparent about the French findings.

The official said none of their intelligence points to an Israeli strike.

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres is at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza trying to find a way to get badly needed aid into the enclave.

The war, which is in its 15th day, is the deadliest of five Gaza wars for both sides. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said Friday that 4,137 Palestinians have been killed and more than 13,000 others wounded.

More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, mostly in the initial attack two weeks ago when Hamas militants stormed into Israel. In addition, 203 people were believed captured by Hamas during the incursion and taken into Gaza, the Israeli military has said.

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