Hamas fighters released 24 hostages yesterday on the first day of the war’s first truce, including Israeli women and children and Thai farm workers, after guns fell silent across the Gaza Strip for the first time in seven weeks.
The hostages were transferred out of Gaza and handed over to Egyptian authorities at the Rafah border crossing, accompanied by eight staff members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in a four-car convoy, the ICRC said.
Qatar, which acted as a mediator for the truce deal, said 13 Israelis had been released, some with dual nationalities, plus 10 Thais and a Filipino.
Thirty-nine Palestinian women and children were released from Israeli jails in return for the 13 Israelis, Qatar said. “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 the ICRC’s regional director for the Near and Middle East, Fabrizio Carboni.
Israel released the names of the Israeli hostages, which included four children accompanied by four family members, and five other elderly women.
“The released hostages underwent an initial medical assessment inside Israeli territory. They will continue to be accompanied by IDF soldiers as they make their way to Israeli hospitals, where they will be reunited with their families”, the military said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a recorded video message: “We have just completed the return of the first batch of our hostages. Children, their mothers and other women. Each and every one of them is a world in itself.
“But I stress to you, the families, and to you, citizens of Israel: We are committed to returning all our hostages”.
Under the terms of the four-day Israel-Hamas truce, 50 women and children hostages are to be released over four days, in return for 150 Palestinian women and children among thousands of detainees in Israeli jails. Israel says the truce could be extended if more hostages are released at a rate of 10 per day.
The first 13 released yesterday were to be exchanged for 24 Palestinian women and 15 teenagers. A source briefed on the negotiations said the release of the Thai workers, who were all men, was unrelated to the truce negotiations and followed a separate track of talks with Hamas mediated by Egypt and Qatar.
Thai and Filipino farmworkers employed in southern Israel were among around 240 hostages dragged back to Gaza by gunmen when Hamas fighters launched a killing spree on 7 October.
Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said in a social media post that 12 Thai workers had been freed, two more than the figure given by the Qataris. No reason for the discrepancy was given. Earlier yesterday, combat between Israeli troops and Hamas fighters halted for the first time in seven weeks under the truce.