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GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: Hamas said Saturday it was going ahead with the release of a second group of Israeli hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners after mediators allayed its concerns about Israeli compliance with the agreement.

An hours-long delay on Saturday evening had caused heartache for relatives as Qatari and Egyptian mediators scrambled to address the Islamist group’s concerns that Israel was interfering in the selection of prisoners for release and was not allowing aid to reach civilians in northern Gaza during the four-day truce.

Hamas said it had “responded positively” to Egyptian and Qatari mediators, after they relayed a promise by Israel to “uphold all the conditions of the accord”.

Qatar said that in the second exchange of the truce, 13 Israeli hostages — eight children and five women — would be released in return for 39 Palestinian prisoners — 33 children and six women.

Seven foreigners held in Gaza would also be released, Qatari foreign ministry spokesman Majed Al Ansari wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Israeli officials denied any breach of the terms of the pause.

Hamas had accused the Israeli army of preventing aid from reaching northern Gaza, its main centre of operations, where troops have forbidden civilians from returning during the truce which began early Friday.

The UN humanitarian agency OCHA said that in “several reported incidents” on Friday, “Israeli forces opened fire and threw teargas canisters at people heading northwards; at least one person was reportedly killed, and dozens injured.”

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said seven people had been wounded in similar incidents on Saturday.

Saturday’s delay followed an initial exchange on Friday when Hamas released 13 Israelis, all of them women and children.

Israel in turn released 39 Palestinian women and children from its prisons under an agreement that mandates exchanges at a ratio of three to one.

Ten Thais and one Filipino were also unexpectedly freed by Hamas.

Hamas fighters snatched around 240 captives when they broke through Gaza’s militarised border with Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 Israelis and foreigners, according to Israeli authorities.

Following the deadliest attack in its history, Israel launched an air, artillery and naval bombardment alongside a ground offensive to destroy Hamas, killing nearly 15,000 people, according to the Hamas government in Gaza.

However, q video released by Hamas showed masked with rifles, wearing military fatigues and the green headband of the Islamist movement’s armed wing, handing hostages over to the Red Cross on Friday.

In a Tel Aviv suburb, people applauded and held up Israeli flags as helicopters flew in the freed captives.

At Israel’s Wolfson Medical Center, which received five elderly women hostages, Dr Shoshi Goldner said “there was no one in the room that could hold his feelings and stop crying”.

“You are finally home in a safe place,” Goldner said.

“Today we are excited about the returnees, but I want us not to forget all those who have not yet returned,” Yael Adar, daughter-in-law of former hostage Yaffa Adar, 85, told Israel’s Ynet news website.

Hamas is expected to free a total of 50 hostages during the truce in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners, under an agreement brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States.

Egypt said that it had received positive feedback from both sides about the idea of extending the truce for a day or two and releasing more hostages and prisoners. “It’s only a start, but so far it’s gone well,” US President Joe Biden told reporters, adding “the chances are real” for extending the truce.

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi called for “a permanent ceasefire and a complete end to this aggression”.

But Israeli armed forces chief Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi insisted Saturday that the war to eliminate Hamas would resume as soon as the pause in fighting ends.


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