Israel calls Hamas’ claim it rejected hostage release ‘propaganda’

JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Israel on Saturday described as “propaganda” a claim by Hamas that the militant group had wanted to release two more hostages on humanitarian grounds but that Israel declined to receive them.

Abu Ubaida, spokesman for Hamas’ armed wing, said it informed Qatar of the group’s intention to release the two additional people on Friday, the same day it freed Americans Judith Tai Ranaan and her daughter Natalie.

In a later statement, Abu Ubaida said Hamas was ready to free the two people on Sunday “using the same procedures” involved in the release of Judith and Natalie.

The Palestinian group captured around 210 people during its deadly assault in southern Israel on Oct. 7. Qatar, which helped mediate Friday’s release, had no immediate comment.

In a brief statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said: “We will not refer to false propaganda by Hamas.”

The statement added: “We will continue to act in every way to return all the kidnapped and missing people home.”

(Reporting by Emily Rose, Hatem Maher in Dubai and Andrew Mills in Doha; Editing by Alison Williams and Daniel Wallis)