1st batch of Israeli hostages, Palestinian prisoners freed as ceasefire takes effect
Israel and the Islamic resistance movement Hamas completed their first round of hostage swap on Friday, the first day of the first temporary humanitarian truce since Oct 7.
Earlier in the day, Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, released 13 Israelis, 10 Thais and one Filipino. The released hostages were escorted by crews from the International Committee of the Red Cross to Egypt through the Rafah crossing.
Israeli media reported that Israeli army helicopters took off from the Hatzeri base to receive the released.
After initial reception procedures, including medical treatment, the hostages were transferred to hospitals to reunite with their family members, according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
Meanwhile, buses carrying about 39 Palestinian prisoners departed on Friday night from the Israeli Ofer prison, located near the West Bank city of Ramallah.
The prisoners released, including 24 women and 15 children, were transferred to the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Hamas took about 240 people, mostly Israelis, hostage during the Oct 7 attack against Israel in the latest round of conflicts.
Under the mediation by Qatar and Egypt, Hamas and Israel reached on Wednesday the four-day humanitarian cease-fire to force a temporary halt of the fighting between the two sides, starting from Friday.
According to the ceasefire agreement, Hamas will release at least 50 Israeli hostages, mainly children and women, in exchange for 150 female and teen Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons.
In Gaza, the deal has brought the first quiet for the 2.3 million Palestinians reeling and desperate from relentless Israeli bombardment that has killed thousands, driven three-quarters of the population from their homes and leveled residential areas.
Israel says the cease-fire could be extended if more hostages are released, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said it had received a new list of hostages to be released by Hamas on Saturday.
But Israel has threatened to resume its massive offensive once the temporary cease-fire ends.