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Hamas releases 24 hostages on first day of Gaza truce, Red Cross confirms

  • Qatar says 39 Palestinian women, children released from Israeli jails
Published November 24, 2023

GAZA/ISRAEL-GAZA BORDER/CAIRO: Hamas released 24 hostages on Friday during the first day of the war’s first truce, the Red Cross said, including Israeli women and children and Thai farm workers.

Meanwhile, a total of 39 women and children detained in Israeli jails were released as part of a truce agreement between Israel and Hamas, Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesman said in a post on X on Friday.

Nine hours after guns fell silent for the first time in seven weeks, the International Red Cross said it had begun an operation to facilitate the transfer of hostages in Gaza to Israel in return for Palestinians held in Israeli jails. It later said 24 hostages had been freed in Gaza.

“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 International Committee of the Red Cross’s regional director for the Near and Middle East.

Gaza health system has reached ‘point of no return’: Red Cross

Israeli media reported that 13 women and children had been handed over to the Red Cross and to an Egyptian security team assisting their release. The Israeli government and Hamas did not immediately confirm this.

Hamas releases Thai workers

In addition to the Israeli women and children due to be released on the first day of the four-day truce, Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said in a social media post that a separate group of 12 Thai workers had been freed.

A source briefed on the negotiations said the release of the Thais, 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 farmworkers employed in southern Israel were among around 240 hostages dragged back to Gaza by gunmen when Hamas fighters launched a killing spree on Oct. 7.

The source said the number of Thais released could be 11 or 12.

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 due to be released on Friday were to be exchanged for 24 Palestinian women and 15 teenagers.

Earlier on Friday, combat between Israeli troops and Hamas fighters halted for the first time in seven weeks under the truce.

Israeli army withdraws from Al-Shifa hospital

Israeli forces withdrew from Gaza’s largest hospital Al-Shifa on Friday, Gaza’s health ministry said, on the first day of a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas.**

The Israeli military raided Al-Shifa last week, targeting what it said was a Hamas command centre in a tunnel complex beneath the medical facility. However, Hamas and hospital officials have repeatedly denied the claim.

Al-Shifa has been a major focus of Israel’s ground offensive in the Gaza Strip following attacks by Hamas across southern Israel on October 7, which Israeli officials say killed about 1,200 people.

Since the Israeli raid, many of the estimated 2,300 patients, staff and displaced civilians sheltering in the Al-Shifa complex have been evacuated to the south of the Gaza Strip.

But the World Health Organisation was “extremely concerned” about the safety of the estimated 100 patients and health workers remaining at Al-Shifa, spokesman Christian Lindmeier said.

Gaza’s health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra, said the Israeli military had withdrawn but the people remaining at Al-Shifa were in a battered complex whose “main generator is destroyed along with numerous buildings”.

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment.

“We’re working on further evacuations from hospitals as soon as possible,” said Lindmeier, with recent Israeli operations focusing on the Indonesian Hospital, another medical facility in northern Gaza.

Lindmeier said the latest evacuation convoy had left Al-Shifa with “73 severely ill or injured patients” including some in need of critical care.

On Thursday, Israeli forces arrested Al-Shifa director Mohammad Abu Salmiya, who has been frequently quoted by international media about conditions inside the complex.

Dolls, doctors and helicopters await Israeli hostages at Gaza’s gate

Israeli soldiers escorted journalists to a tunnel shaft they said was part of an underground network used by Hamas.

Al-Shifa hospital has been the scene of an extended Israeli special forces operation as part of its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, where the Hamas-run government says nearly 15,000 people have been killed, most of them women and children.

On Friday, a four-day truce in the Israel-Hamas war began, with hostages set to be released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

“We hope that this humanitarian pause leads to a longer term humanitarian ceasefire for the benefit of the people of Gaza, Israel and beyond,” said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the United Nations humanitarian agency OCHA.

No big bombings, artillery strikes reported

Combat between Israeli troops and Hamas fighters halted on Friday for the first time in seven weeks in a temporary truce ahead of the planned release of Israeli hostages held by the Hamas in exchange for jailed Palestinians.

No big bombings, artillery strikes or rocket attacks were reported, although Hamas and Israel both accused each other of sporadic shootings and other violations.

Both said the war would resume on full throttle as soon as the truce was over.

In Khan Younis town in southern Gaza, streets filled with people venturing out of home and shelters into a landscape of buildings flattened into heaps of rubble.

Aid trucks enter Gaza from Egypt after truce begins

Displaced families with small children carried belongings in plastic bags, hoping to return at least temporarily to homes they had abandoned earlier in the war.

“I am now very happy, I feel at ease. I am going back to my home, our hearts are rested,” said Ahmad Wael, smiling as he walked carrying a carpet balanced on his head. “I am very tired of sitting without any food or water. There (at home) we can live, we drink tea, make bread.”

Above northern Gaza’s combat zone, viewed from across the fence in Israel, there was no sign of the warplanes that have thundered through the sky for weeks, explosions on the ground or the contrails of Hamas rocketfire.

Just one plume of smoke was visible in the early afternoon.

Columns of Israeli tanks rolled away from the Gaza Strip’s northern end, while aid trucks entered from Egypt at the southern end.

A “temporary truce”

The four-day ceasefire, which began at 7 a.m. (0500 GMT), involves the release of 50 women and children hostages held by the fighters, in return for 150 Palestinian woman and teenagers held in Israeli jails.

The first 13 hostages and 39 Palestinians were due to be freed later on Friday.

Israel says it could be extended beyond four days if more hostages are freed at a rate of at least 10 per day, and a Palestinian source has said up to 100 could ultimately go free.

Additional aid is to flow into Gaza, which has been gripped by a humanitarian crisis under weeks of Israeli bombardment that has killed thousands of Palestinians.

Hamas confirmed that all hostilities from its forces would cease.

But Abu Ubaida, spokesperson for Hamas’ armed wing, later stressed that this was a “temporary truce”.

Palestinians say 24 women, 15 teenaged males to be freed from Israeli jails

In a video message, he called for an “escalation of the confrontation…on all resistance fronts”, including the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant vowed a similar return to fighting: “This will be a short pause, at the conclusion of which the war (and) fighting will continue with great might and will generate pressure for the return of more hostages.”

Israel launched its assault on Gaza after Hamas fighters burst across the border fence into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and seizing about 240 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Since then, Israel has rained bombs on the Hamas-ruled enclave, killing some 14,000 Gazans, around 40% of them children, according to Palestinian health authorities.

Hundreds of thousands of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have fled their homes to escape the violence as conditions grew ever more desperate, with food, drinking water, fuel and other basic supplies running short. It is the bloodiest episode in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel’s stated intention is to eradicate Hamas once and for all.

No return allowed to north of strip

Israel has told displaced Gazans not to attempt to return to the northern part of the Gaza Strip, focus of its ground campaign since the start of this month.

Happy but uncertain, displaced Palestinians try to head home to north Gaza

Gaza residents said the Israelis had dropped leaflets warning people not to travel north and have fired over the heads of some people who were trying to get back into Gaza City.

Al-Jazeera reported that two Palestinians were killed and another was wounded by Israeli soldiers shooting at people who tried to return to the north.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military. Sirens sounded in two southern Israeli villages warning of possible incoming Palestinian rockets.

An Israeli government spokesman said Hamas had fired rockets in violation of the truce but there were no reports of damage.

Fighting had raged in the hours leading up to the truce, with officials inside the enclave saying a hospital in Gaza City was among the targets bombed.

The Indonesian Hospital was operating without light and filled with bedridden old people and children too weak to be moved, Gaza health officials said.

Al-Jazeera quoted Mounir El Barsh, the Gaza health ministry director, as saying a patient, a wounded woman, was killed and three others injured. There was no comment from Israel on the reported incident.

Women, children hostages to be freed

The temporary truce came about amid international concern over the fate of the hostages and the plight of Palestinian civilians trapped in Gaza. Israel has rejected calls for a full ceasefire, arguing it would benefit Hamas, a position backed by the United States.

The 13 first hostages were expected to be released around 1400 GMT to the Red Cross and an Egyptian security delegation, then brought out through Egypt for transfer to Israel, Egyptian security sources said.

In exchange Israel will release 24 women and 15 teenagers in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian officials said.

The head of the Palestinian Authority’s prisoners’ commission, Qadura Fares, said that as soon as Israel received the hostages at the Rafah crossing, Israel’s prisons’ authority would move the Palestinian prisoners to the Red Cross.

Dolls, doctors and helicopters await Israeli hostages at Gaza’s gate

Under the agreement, desperately-needed aid began to be delivered to Gaza.

By mid-morning, 60 trucks carrying aid had crossed from Egypt at the Rafah border point, according to Gaza border authorities.

Two of the first trucks to enter sported banners that said, “Together for Humanity.” Another said: “For our brothers in Gaza.”

Egypt has said 130,000 litres of diesel and four trucks of gas will be delivered daily to Gaza and that 200 trucks of aid would enter Gaza daily.

A Palestinian official familiar with the truce talks told Reuters that only three trucks of aid out of 100 trucks had reached the northern Gaza Strip so far.

“This is grave foot-dragging,” the official said.

Thai PM says 12 Thai hostages released by Hamas

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said 12 Thai hostages kidnapped during Hamas’s October 7 raids into Israel were released on Friday, hours after a truce in the Israel-Hamas war began.

“It has been confirmed by the security side and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that 12 Thai hostages are already released,” he posted on X.


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were Nov 25, 2023 12:11am
Why only 24 what about the rest? What did they achieve?
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