‘We can only pray’: Australian hopes for release of kidnapped sister-in-law

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Australia has welcomed the breakthrough deal between the Israeli government and Hamas that includes a four-day pause in the war that has killed more than 12,000 people since October 7.

The deal between the Israeli government and Hamas, negotiated with help from Qatar, the United States and Egypt, will secure the release of 50 hostages held by Hamas, as well as 150 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. It also allows for a significant expansion of aid deliveries into the ravaged Gaza Strip.

Australian-Israeli actor Dan Mor, pictured in the 2015 film Arrowhead, said he was praying his sister-in-law would be among the hostages who are released.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong welcomed it, saying she hoped it was the first step in the path to a “sustainable ceasefire” between Israel and Hamas. She also revealed the government has granted temporary visas to 860 Palestinians trapped in Gaza and almost 1800 Israelis to allow them to relocate to Australia.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed the hostage deal involved only a halt in hostilities and that his government remained committed to eliminating Hamas.

“We are at war, and we will continue the war,” he said. “We will continue until we achieve all our goals.”

Australian-Israeli actor Dan Mor said he was nervously awaiting news about whether his sister-in-law Moran Yanai, who was taken hostage during a music festival near the Israel-Gaza border, would be among those released in coming days. Yanai, 40, is a jeweller who was attending the Supernova rave after being invited to set up a retail stand.

“There are a lot of mixed emotions. We are very happy that this is happening, but we don’t know who will be released and how they will be released,” Mor, who starred in the Underbelly series, told this masthead from Tel Aviv.

“All that’s left for us to do is pray that Moran is safe and will return to us soon. When we are reunited, we will have a huge celebration and reassess a lot of things about life.

“We have learnt how delicate and vulnerable life is.”

In a statement posted on Telegram, Hamas said: “After many days of difficult and complex negotiations, we announce, with the help and blessing of God, that we have reached a humanitarian truce.”

Hamas, a listed terror organisation in Australia, said that “our hands will remain on the trigger, and our triumphant brigades will remain on the lookout to defend our people and to defeat the occupation and aggression”.

While opposed by key ultra-nationalist members of Netanyahu’s cabinet, who pushed for a deal including the return of all 240 hostages, the agreement has been welcomed by leading Australian pro-Israeli groups and the Palestinian Authority’s top representative in Australia.

Alex Ryvchin, the co-chief executive of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said the release of some of the most vulnerable hostages, including orphaned babies, came as “an immense relief to the families and the Jewish world”.

“That said, anything that favours Hamas and keeps its army of killers and rapists in place for any period of time is a threat to Israel and regional stability,” he said.

Izzat Salah Abdulhadi, the head of the general delegation of Palestine to Australia, said the deal was a “step in the right direction” that would provide the people in Gaza some breathing room after more than six weeks of intense fighting.

“But this is not sufficient, actually, because what we need is a permanent truce, a permanent ceasefire,” he told the ABC.

Under the deal, 50 women and children taken hostage by Hamas on October 7 will be released in stages in exchange for a four-day ceasefire.

A larger number of trucks carrying aid, medical supplies and fuel will be allowed to enter Gaza and 150 Palestinian women and children held in Israeli jails will be released.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong said she hoped the deal would lead to a sustainable ceasefire. Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

Wong told reporters: “This is an important and necessary step, but what we must ultimately work towards is a long-term enduring peace.

“I think we would all want to see a sustainable ceasefire and we also know they cannot be one-sided.”

Wong reiterated the government’s calls for a two-state solution “with Israelis and Palestinians living securely and prosperously within internationally recognised borders”.

Wong revealed that a further 67 Australians, permanent residents and family members had been able to cross the border into Egypt on Tuesday night, following the successful passage of 31 people on Monday.

A total of 127 Australians, permanent residents and their families have been able to leave Gaza since the war broke out.

Confirming that 860 Palestinians and 1793 Israelis had been granted visas since October 7, Wong stressed that all visa applicants had to pass security checks.

Many of the Palestinians granted visas have not been able to travel to Australia because they are trapped in Gaza.

Terms of the Israel-Hamas ceasefire

  • All fighting in Gaza halts for four days.
  • Hamas will release 50 women and children held as hostages.
  • In exchange Israel will release 150 Palestinian women and children from jail.
  • The truce deal will allow hundreds of trucks of humanitarian, medical and fuel aid to enter Gaza.
  • Israel to extend truce an extra day for every additional 10 hostages released by Hamas.

More coverage of the Hamas-Israel conflict

  • Hamas had bigger plans on October 7: Intelligence about Hamas’ motivations reveals an intention to strike a blow of historic proportions and provoke an overwhelming Israeli response.
  • Escape from chaos: An Australian father faced a heartbreaking dilemma – whether to flee Gaza to his children, or stay with his wife.
  • Open letters: Mass resignations, boardroom turmoil and angry donors are some of the ways the Israel-Hamas war is filtering down into Australia’s high-powered arts world.
  • Gaza’s youth: One of the cruellest ironies of war is that they are never started by children, yet it is children who suffer the most.

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