GAZA/WASHINGTON, Oct 23 (Reuters) – The armed wing of the Palestinian Hamas militant group said on Monday it had released two Israeli women on health grounds as sources said the United States had advised Israel to hold off on a ground assault in the Gaza Strip.

“We decided to release them for humanitarian and poor health grounds,” Abu Ubaida, spokesman for the armed wing, said on Telegram. A source said they were elderly Israelis, identified by Israeli media as Nurit Cooper and Yocheved Lifshitz.

They were freed following the release of an American woman and her daughter on Friday. All four were among more than 200 people Hamas gunmen took hostage in an Oct. 7 cross-border assault in which they killed 1,400 people.

In public, the United States has stressed Israel’s right to defend itself but two sources familiar with the matter said the White House, Pentagon and State Department have stepped up private appeals for caution in conversations with the Israelis.

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