Hamas could release up to 15 Israeli hostages for pause in fighting, ITV News understands

ITV News Global Security Editor Rohit Kachroo was told somewhere between 10 and 15 hostages could be released by Hamas if talks are successful. Meanwhile, tens of thousands flee northern Gaza as the humanitarian situation deteriorates

  • ITV News understands that Hamas could release around a dozen Israeli hostages, in return for a pause in fighting.

  • Thousands of Palestinians have been forced to flee to the south on foot after running out of food and water in the north, a United Nations (UN) agency has said, adding that 11 bakeries have been wiped out in Gaza.

  • The Israeli military has announced its troops are fighting with Hamas militants deep inside Gaza City, though Hamas has denied this.

  • The UK government believes there are three British hostages still being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and supports a "humanitarian pause" over a wider ceasefire, the foreign secretary said.

  • In the last month, more than 10,500 Palestinians - most of them women and children - have died, while over 1,400 were killed after Hamas' incursion into Israel, their respective health ministries have said.

Around a dozen Israeli hostages could be released by Hamas, in return for a pause in fighting, ITV News understands.

A source said negotiations between Tel Aviv and the proscribed terror group are ongoing, but, if agreed, it would mark a significant break in Israel's relentless bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has so far rejected any calls for a ceasefire, saying on Tuesday that its war to destroy Hamas will be long and difficult.

It comes as a United Nations (UN) agency said thousands of Palestinians have fled into southern Gaza, after running out of food and water in the north.

More than 70% of Gaza's population of 2.3 million people have already fled their homes, many due to the increasingly desperate situation in and around Gaza City.

A woman attempts to avoid being shot by holding up a white shirt, as Palestinians flee Gaza City. Credit: AP

The Israeli military said its troops are fighting with Hamas militants deep inside Gaza's largest city.

ITV News saw first hand the destruction of the territory after a month of relentless missile strikes. Whole neighbourhoods had been destroyed and there were few people after thousands fled to what they hoped was safety.

About 15,000 people fled northern Gaza on Tuesday - triple the number that left Monday - according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Thousands more made the journey on Wednesday.

Many are travelling on foot, using Gaza's main north-south highway during a daily four-hour window announced by Israel.

Those fleeing include children, the elderly and people with disabilities - most walked with minimal belongings, the UN agency added.

Some say they had to cross Israeli checkpoints, where they saw people being arrested, while others held their hands in the air and raised white flags while passing Israeli tanks.

Palestinians flee to the southern Gaza Strip. Credit: AP

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) - an agency working within the Israeli Defence Forces - posted to X, formerly known as Twitter, a video it says shows thousands of Gazans walking from northern Gaza through a humanitarian corridor.

A local journalist working for ITV News in northern Gaza has been left injured by the fighting, and is currently receiving treatment in hospital. 

As of November 7, the international media freedom group, Reporters Without Borders, said 36 journalists had been killed in the Gaza Strip by Israeli airstrikes.

Northern Gaza has been without running water for weeks, according to the UN, as the last functioning bakeries shut down on Tuesday due to a lack of fuel, water, and flour.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency working in Gaza said 11 bakeries have been hit and destroyed in the territory since October 7.

Only one of the World Food Program-contracted bakeries, along with eight others in the middle and south of Gaza, are able to provide bread to shelters while working intermittently.

Palestinians look for survivors following Israeli airstrikes in Nusseirat refugee camp, Gaza Strip. Credit: AP

"People queue for long hours in bakeries, where they are exposed as bombardments and airstrikes continue," the agency said.

The Israeli army's chief spokesperson, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, said on Tuesday that its ground forces had reached "the depths of Gaza City".

Hamas denied Israeli troops had made any significant gains or entered the city. It was not possible to independently confirm claims from either side.

World leaders and politicians have urged the Israeli military for a "humanitarian pause" in the fighting, so that Palestinian civilians may be granted some relief and receive aid.

The foreign secretary said the government supports the idea of a humanitarian pause in the Gaza Strip above a wider ceasefire.

British nationals have been able to escape through the Rafah crossing, connecting Gaza and Egypt. Credit: ITV News

Speaking on the sidelines of the G7 Foreign Minister talks in Japan, James Cleverly told a select group of journalists on Wednesday that a ceasefire would hamper Israel's ability to defend itself.

More than 150 British nationals have left Gaza via the Rafah crossing as of Tuesday night, a Foreign Office minister also said on Wednesday.

Making a statement in the Commons on the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Andrew Mitchell said: "Immediately after Hamas' brutal assault, the government brought home almost 1,000 British nationals safely on charter and military flights, but the safety of all British nationals is our utmost priority and so we are in regular contact with those in Gaza registered with us since the conflict began.

"Working with partners, we have been engaging intensively with Israel and Egypt to allow foreign nationals to leave Gaza via the Rafah border crossing.

"This has proved possible on five of the last seven days and I can confirm to the House that as of late last night, over 150 British nationals have made it through to Egypt.

"A forward deployed team of consular officials is… close to Rafah to meet them and provide the medical consular and administrative support they need.

"We have also set up a reception centre for British nationals in Cairo and have arranged accommodation. We will do everything we can to ensure all remaining British nationals in Gaza can leave safely."

The government believes there are three British hostages still being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

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