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Hamas Releases 24 Hostages After Israel Truce Deal

user avatar Author: Dave Dave Source: Bloomberg
November 24, 2023 at 17:10
The ICRC in Israel and the occupied territories said that it transported the group of hostages from Gaza to the Rafah border crossing with Egypt [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]
The ICRC in Israel and the occupied territories said that it transported the group of hostages from Gaza to the Rafah border crossing with Egypt [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

Four-day pause in fighting came after complex, fraught talks

Hamas released an initial group of 24 hostages held in Gaza under a four-day truce with Israel, a brief pause in six weeks of war that have devastated the Palestinian territory since the deadly attack by militants last month.

“We are relieved to confirm the safe release of 24 hostages,” the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. The group was made up of 13 Israelis, some with dual citizenship and all women and minors, as well as 10 Thai nationals and a citizen of the Philippines, according to the Foreign Ministry of Qatar, which helped negotiate the deal.

Those freed were among some 240 people captured when Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, triggering the Israeli bombardment and invasion of Gaza. A cease-fire went into effect earlier Friday. Under the agreement, Israel released a first group of 39 jailed Palestinian women and minors on Friday, Qatar said.

“It’s only a start, but so far it’s gone well,” President Joe Biden said in comments from Nantucket, Massachusetts. “We expect more hostages to be released tomorrow — and more the day after that.” He said the timing for the release of American hostages was unclear.

The pause in fighting offers “a critical opportunity to deliver much-needed food, medicine, water and fuel,” Biden said, adding, “We are not wasting one single minute.”

As the cease-fire went into effect, streets in the southern Gaza Strip — where Israel has urged civilians to evacuate to as its troops concentrate on the north — were filled with people emerging from shelters, some carrying belongings, footage on Al Jazeera showed. In the city of Khan Younis, cars crowded the streets and blared their horns.

Under the deal, which came after weeks of complex and delicate talks brokered by Qatar, the US and Egypt, Hamas is supposed to eventually return 50 women and children. Israel is supposed to release 150 Palestinian women and youths.

The Israeli military said the hostages released Friday arrived in Israel and underwent initial medical assessments before being taken to hospitals, where they would be reunited with their families.

“We’ve completed the first return of our hostages” and “we’re committed to returning all of them,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. He added, “We’re committed to achieving all the aims of the war” — a reference to Israel’s intention to resume the military attack on Hamas when the four-day cease-fire expires.

Netanyahu’s office said the Israelis released ranged from two-year-old Aviv Asher and his family to 85-year-old Yaffa Adar.

Israeli strikes from air, land and sea intensified ahead of the cease-fire, the United Nations said. Shortly before the pause, the Israeli army warned people in Gaza to stay in southern areas. In recent weeks hundreds of thousands have fled their homes in the north, which Israel says is Hamas’s “center of gravity.”

The pause in fighting was accompanied by a surge in humanitarian aid into Gaza, according to the UN. It said 137 truckloads of goods were offloaded at its reception point in Gaza, making it the biggest humanitarian convoy received since Oct. 7. The world body also said that 21 critically ill patient were evacuated from the north of Gaza.

The start of the truce was delayed by a day as the sides held last-minute negotiations via Qatar following an initial agreement in the early hours of Wednesday.
 

Israel and Hamas Agree to Short Truce

Hamas agreed to free 50 hostages from Gaza in return for the release of 150 Palestinian prisoners and a four-day cease-fire with Israel, starting Nov. 24

Sources: Institute for the Study of War and AEI's Critical Threats Project; Copernicus Sentinel-2; Maxar Technologies Note: Israeli campaign as of November 23, 2023
Sources: Institute for the Study of War and AEI's Critical Threats Project; Copernicus Sentinel-2; Maxar Technologies
Note: Israeli campaign as of November 23, 2023
 

“It’s going to be a very fragile few days,” Mairav Zonszein, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, said to Bloomberg Television on Friday. “We’re going to have to see how things develop, if both sides adhere to the agreement.”

The pause in fighting marks the first major lull since the conflict began on Oct. 7. That day, Hamas, designated a terrorist organization by the US and European Union, attacked southern Israeli communities and army bases from Gaza. Israel said Hamas killed 1,200 people as well as taking the hostages.

Israel responded with a bombardment of the Gaza Strip, a densely packed Mediterranean enclave with about 2.3 million inhabitants. It also launched a ground offensive on the northern part in late October. Almost 15,000 people have died in Gaza since the war began, according to its Hamas-run health ministry.

— With assistance from Akayla Gardner, Augusta Saraiva, Jordan Fabian, and Jennifer Jacobs

(Corrects to remove gender of non-Israeli hostages.)

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