Biden welcomes 'start of a process' after release of hostages from Gaza

On Friday, 13 Israeli captives held in Gaza were released in exchange for 39 Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails

President Joe Biden speaks to reporters in Nantucket, Massachusetts. AP
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US President Joe Biden on Friday hailed the “start of a process” after 13 Israeli hostages and 39 Palestinian detainees were released on the first of a four-day truce in Gaza.

Mr Biden said the effort was the result of “extensive diplomacy” and that the US was determined to bring all hostages home.

“Today has been a product a lot of hard work and weeks of personal engagement,” Mr Biden said in remarks from Nantucket, Massachusetts.

“We expect more hostages to be released tomorrow, and more the day after, and more the day after that.”

The four-day truce is a temporary pause in a war that has gone on for seven weeks, during which more than 14,500 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed and much of the coastal enclave has been reduced to rubble.

US officials say nine Americans have been held in Gaza since October 7, when Hamas gunmen launched an attack on Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking about 240 hostage.

“It is my hope and expectation” that the American hostages will be released soon, Mr Biden said, adding that their conditions and locations were still unknown.

“We will not stop until we get these hostages brought home and an answer to their whereabouts,” he said.

As part of the deal, 39 Palestinian women and minors held in Israeli prisons were released on Friday, the first of a total of 150 who were due to be freed from detention.

More than a hundred lorries carrying critical medical supplies, food and water entered the besieged Gaza Strip on Friday, the UN said, the biggest convoy since the war started.

Israel blocked the entry of food, water, medicine and fuel to Gaza on October 7, leading to a humanitarian crisis.

“I've consistently pressed for a pause in the fighting for two reasons: to accelerate and expand humanitarian assistance going into Gaza and to facilitate the release of hostages,” Mr Biden said.

Ten Thai citizens and one Filipino were also freed on Friday in a separate agreement, according to Qatar, which has been a critical mediator in the deal.

The Biden administration has so far opposed a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, saying it supports Israel's aim of eradicating Hamas.

Updated: November 25, 2023, 10:41 AM