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Thursday, February 22, 2024  
11 Shaban 1445  

Hamas releases 24 hostages on first day of Gaza truce

Thailand says 12 hostages held by Hamas released from captivity
A Red Cross vehicle believed to be carrying hostages abducted by Hamas during the October 7 attack on Israel, arrives at the Rafah border, amid a hostages-prisoners swap deal between Hamas and Israel, as seen from southern Gaza Strip November 24, 2023. REUTERS/Reuters TV Acquire Licensing Rights
A Red Cross vehicle believed to be carrying hostages abducted by Hamas during the October 7 attack on Israel, arrives at the Rafah border, amid a hostages-prisoners swap deal between Hamas and Israel, as seen from southern Gaza Strip November 24, 2023. REUTERS/Reuters TV Acquire Licensing Rights
A convoy of ambulances heads towards north Gaza during a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas, near Gaza City November 24, 2023. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa Acquire Licensing Rights
A convoy of ambulances heads towards north Gaza during a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas, near Gaza City November 24, 2023. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa Acquire Licensing Rights

Latest development

  • Thai prime minister says 12 Thai workers have also been released from captivity in Gaza
  • 12 Thai men released as part of separate deal with Hamas mediated by Qatar and Egypt
  • A group of hostages from Israel held in the Gaza Strip was set free, Israeli TV reported, in return for the expected release of jailed Palestinians

Hamas fighters 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.

Nine hours after guns fell silent for the first time in seven weeks, the 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.

Twenty-four 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 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 Fabrizio Carboni, the ICRC’s regional director for the Near and Middle East.

The Israeli military said the freed hostages had already been brought to Israel.

“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.

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

Earlier, Thailand said that 12 of its nationals from among hostages captured by Hamas in Israel had been set free and Israeli media reported that a group of women and children were being handed over to the Red Cross, the first hostages to go free under a temporary truce.

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said in a social media post that the 12 Thais had been released from captivity in Gaza.

There was no further information immediately available about the Thai prisoners, whose release had not previously been announced as one of the terms of an agreed prisoner swap accompanying the first truce of the seven-week-old war.

Israeli media reported that the first group of hostages due to be released under the truce deal had been handed to the Red Cross and to an Egyptian security team. Reuters could not immediately confirm this.

Under the terms of the four-day truce, 13 women and children - out of around 240 hostages captured by Hamas fighters in southern Israel on October 7 - were expected to comprise the first group to be released.

They had been due to be freed with the aid of the Red Cross and an Egyptian security team at 4pm (1400 GMT), nine hours after the start of the ceasefire, and to be flown home under military guard.

In exchange, Israel was due to release the first 39 Palestinians from its jails on Friday, among them 24 women and 15 teenagers.

Read: Israel, Hamas agree deal for release of Gaza hostages, truce

A total of 50 hostages and 150 Palestinian prisoners are to be freed over the four-day truce, though Israel has said the ceasefire could be extended if Hamas continues to release hostages at a rate of at least 10 per day. A Palestinian source has said up to 100 hostages could go free.

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