Hamas is preventing the release of a 10-month-old baby held captive in Gaza, Israel said on Monday night.
Kfir Bibas, the youngest hostage kidnapped by Hamas, has been handed over to a separate Palestinian terror group in the southern city of Khan Younis, an Israel Defense Forces spokesman said.
The city is expected to be a target of Israel’s next offensive, raising the prospect the infant is being used for further leverage in talks to extend the truce.
Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defence minister, promised to “use the same amount of power and more” in a renewed military assault on Gaza when the hostage exchange deal expires.
On Monday, Israel and Hamas agreed a 48-hour extension to the initial four-day agreement, with 20 further hostages set to be released.
Nine children, including three-year-old twins, and two women were freed on Monday.
However, there was outrage after it was claimed that Hamas no longer had control of Kfir and his four-year-old brother Ariel, both kidnapped on Oct 7.
They are believed to be held alongside their parents, Yarden and Shiri. The image of the terrified mother clutching the two children, both of whom have distinctive red hair, is one of the most memorable from the attacks.