24 hostages are released as Israel-Hamas deal pauses Gaza fighting

A group of 24 hostages — including 13 Israelis and a number of Thais — were released from the Gaza Strip on Friday, as a breakthrough deal between Israel and Hamas to pause fighting took hold after weeks of secretive diplomacy.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that it transferred the hostages from Gaza to the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. Later, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that the hostages “underwent an initial medical assessment inside Israeli territory” and soldiers would then accompany them to hospitals “where they will be reunited with their families.”

Among those named as being freed on a list released by the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was Hanna Katzir, 76, whose death had been announced on Telegram on Tuesday by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group.

Doron Katz-Asher, 34, and her two young daughters, Raz, 4, and Aviv, 2, were also on the list, along with 6-year-old Amelia Aloni and her mother Daniel, 45. Ohad Munder-Zichri, who spent his 9th birthday in captivity, was also listed along with his mother Keren, 54, and grandmother Ruth, 78. Several other seniors were also on the list.

In exchange, Israel released 39 Palestinians it had been holding for a range of alleged offenses. The Red Cross said on X that it had facilitated the release of 33 detainees from Ofer prison to the city of Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank. Qadura Fares, who heads an advocacy group for prisoners, told The Associated Press the remaining six were being freed from a Jerusalem lockup.

Ten Thai nationals and a Filipino citizen captured from Israel on Oct. 7 were also released by Hamas, Qatar’s foreign ministry said. Earlier in the day, Thailand’s prime minister had said in a post on social media that 12 Thais had been released. The reason for the discrepancy was not immediately clear.

In a televised address from Nantucket, Massachusetts, President Joe Biden thanked the leaders of Qatar, Egypt and Israel, who helped broker the deal that is set to release at least 50 Hamas hostages in all. In return, Israel said it would free 150 Palestinian prisoners, mostly from the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Biden said that he expects more hostages to be released and is hopeful that the Americans still being held would soon be freed. But he added that he did not “trust Hamas to do anything right.”

“I only trust Hamas to respond to pressure,” he said, adding that he hoped the cease-fire could last more than four days.

Elsewhere, Mohammed al-Khulaifi, Qatar’s chief negotiator in the cease-fire talks, also told NBC News that he was “hopeful” that at least four U.S. citizens, “women and children,” would be freed in the coming days.

Around 240 hostages are believed to have been taken on Oct. 7, and the fate of the hostages has been a central source of grief and turmoil in Israel. Their families have campaigned relentlessly to secure their release, including taking over a public square opposite the defense ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv, and marching 40 miles from the city to the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem.

Prior to this, only four hostages had been freed from Gaza, leaving in two pairs; Israel also freed one of its soldiers while conducting ground operations in the strip. Two others, including another soldier, were found dead.

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In a video address after the hostages were released Friday, Netanyahu said his government was “committed to the return of all our abductees,” adding it was “one of the goals of the war and we are committed to achieving all the goals of the war.”

Meanwhile, the cease-fire planned for at least four days largely held, allowing hundreds of trucks carrying aid and some fuel into the densely populated enclave that has been besieged and bombarded for weeks since Hamas’ surprise terror attack on Oct. 7.

The deal offered some relief for the 2.3 million people living in the enclave with dwindling supplies.


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