- Pause silences guns raging since Hamas’ raids into Israel on October 7
- 13 hostages held in Gaza freed, Israel to release 39 Palestinian prisoners, among them 24 women and 15 teenagers
GAZA STRIP (Agencies): Hamas released the first batch of hostages under a cease-fire deal that began Friday, including 13 Israelis who have been held in the Gaza Strip since the militant group staged a raid on Israel nearly seven weeks ago, according to officials and media reports.
According to Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, twelve Thai nationals were also released. Dozens of Palestinian prisoners are also expected to be freed by Israel.
The cease-fire between Israel and Hamas began Friday, setting the stage for the exchange and allowing sorely needed aid to start flowing into Gaza.
There were no reports of fighting after the truce began. The deal offered some relief for Gaza’s 2.3 million people, who have endured weeks of Israeli bombardment and dwindling supplies of basic necessities, as well as for families in Israel worried about loved ones taken captive during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, which triggered the war.
The truce raised hopes of eventually winding down the conflict, which has flattened vast swaths of Gaza, fueled a surge of violence in the occupied West Bank and stirred fears of a wider conflagration across the Middle East. Israel, however, has said it is determined to resume its massive offensive once the cease-fire ends.
Under the deal, Gaza’s ruling Hamas group pledged to free at least 50 of the about 240 hostages it and other militants took in the Oct. 7 raid. In exchange, Hamas said Israel would free 150 Palestinian prisoners.
Both sides agreed to release women and children first, in stages starting Friday, and as planned 13 Israelis were released, according to Israeli media, citing security officials. An Israeli official, meanwhile, confirmed that the Thai captives left Gaza and were en route to a hospital in Israel. The official spoke anonymously because she was not authorized to discuss the releases with the media.
Israel said the deal calls for the truce to be extended an extra day for every additional 10 hostages freed.
Early in the day, ambulances were seen arriving at the Hatzerim air base in southern Israel, preparing for the release. Those freed will then be taken to hospitals for assessment and treatment, Israeli officials said.
Among the Israeli citizens freed some have a second nationality, according to a Hamas official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the details with the media.
Israel’s Justice Ministry published a list of 300 Palestinian prisoners eligible for release. Thirty-nine — 24 women, including some convicted of attempted murder for attacks on Israeli forces, and 15 teenagers jailed for offenses like throwing stones — were expected to be freed Friday, Palestinian authorities said.