Israel releases 39 Palestinian detainees after Hamas frees 13 Israeli hostages

Under the temporary truce agreement, Hamas will release at least 50 Israeli hostages and Israel will release 150 Palestinian detainees

Released hostages arrive at Egypt's Rafah crossing inside Red Cross vehicles

Released hostages arrive at Egypt's Rafah crossing inside Red Cross vehicles
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Hamas on Friday released 13 Israeli hostages as well as 10 Thai citizens and one person from the Philippines that it had been holding since the October 7 attack.

In return, Israel released 39 Palestinians from prison in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian news agency Wafa confirmed on Friday.

The 13 hostages reached Israel after travelling into Egypt and being handed over to Israeli authorities, Israel's security forces said.

After undergoing an initial medical assessment in Israel, they will be accompanied to hospital by soldiers, after which they will be reunited with their families, the Israeli military confirmed.

The hostages are believed to have travelled from Egypt to Israel via helicopter.

They were escorted across the Gaza-Egypt border at Rafah in ambulances and cars belonging to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Among the Israelis released were 34-year-old Doron Katz-Asher and her two daughters, 4-year-old Raz Asher and 2-year-old Aviv Asher, who were kidnapped while visiting Kibbutz Nir Oz near the border with Gaza.

“We are relieved to confirm the safe release of 24 hostages from Gaza. This humanitarian operation, led by eight ICRC staff including a doctor in eight trucks, successfully concluded at the Rafah border crossing,” ICRC regional media relations adviser Jessica Moussan told The National.

“We have witnessed the agony that many civilians have suffered due to this conflict. Families in Israel and families in the West Bank will be reunited with their loved ones today.

“The situation in Gaza is beyond critical and we continue our role as a neutral intermediary while also reminding of the need for humanitarian aid for the millions in Gaza.”

This is the first batch of hostages Hamas has released as part of a four-day truce that came into effect on Friday morning.

Israel released its first group of Palestinian detainees later on Friday.

Thirty-nine Palestinian detainees were released from Ofer prison several hours after the Israeli hostages crossed into Egypt.

The detainees had been taken from several Israeli prisons to Ofer prison, near Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank.

Two buses reportedly carrying the detainees were seen leaving the prison complex and headed for the Beitunia checkpoint. Their transfer was also enabled by the ICRC.

Hamas released a list of the 39 Palestinians that it expected to be released on Friday. It listed 24 women and 15 children.

Under the temporary truce agreement with Israel, Hamas will release at least 50 Israeli hostages over the four days. In return, 150 Palestinian women and children will be released from Israeli prisons.

“The deep pain that family members separated from their loved ones feel is indescribable. We are relieved that some will be reunited after long agony,” said Fabrizio Carboni, the ICRC’s regional director for the Near and Middle East.

“Our deep desire is for all hostages to be released, and that civilians be shielded from the pain and suffering that armed conflict brings.”

The agreement also said that Israeli reconnaissance planes would not fly over southern Gaza, reportedly so that they would be unable to gather information about the location of the hostages, sources briefed on the deal said.

However, Israeli planes were seen in the sky on Friday.

The Thai hostages were released separately to the Israelis and not as part of the truce deal.

Thailand's Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said the Thai Security Department and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had confirmed that the 12 hostages had been released, and that officials from the embassy were on their way to pick them up.

Egypt said that its mediation efforts had enabled the transfer.

“Egypt's mediation efforts have yielded the release of 12 Thai hostages and 13 Israelis, including women and children, held by Hamas,” the government media office said.

However, the ICRC and Qatar later confirmed that only 10 Thai hostages had been released, alongside one Filipino citizen.

“Those released include 13 Israeli citizens, some of whom are dual citizens, in addition to 10 Thai citizens and a Filipino citizen,” said Majed Al Ansari, spokesman for Qatar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Qatar has played a key mediating role between Hamas and Israel since the outbreak of the war, alongside Egypt.

It was not clear why there was a discrepancy between the initial announcement of 12 and the later number of 10.

Updated: November 25, 2023, 5:09 AM