UNITED NATIONS, October 25. /TASS/. At least 220 people are being held hostage in the Gaza Strip, and according to unverified reports, the Hamas movement says 22 hostages have been killed as a result of Israeli strikes, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Thor Vennesland said.
"At least 220 civilians, including women and children, as well as soldiers, were abducted and taken into the Strip as hostages. While not confirmed, Hamas has said that 22 hostages were killed by Israeli strikes," he said at an open debate on the situation in the Middle East at the UN Security Council.
Vennesland welcomed the release of the four hostages and thanked the Qatari authorities for their assistance in the matter. "The fear and uncertainty you have had to endure is unimaginable," he said, addressing the families of the hostages. "As the [UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres] and I have said repeatedly, your loved ones must be returned to you immediately and unconditionally," he added.
Tensions flared up again in the Middle East on October 7 when militants from the Gaza-based Palestinian radical group Hamas staged a surprise incursion into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip. Hamas described its attack as a response to the aggressive actions of Israeli authorities against the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City. In response, Israel announced a total blockade of the Gaza Strip and began delivering air strikes on the enclave and certain parts of Lebanon and Syria. Clashes are underway in the West Bank of the Jordan River as well.