Hamas Releases Second Group of 17 Hostages Under Temporary Truce

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Second Israeli hostage transfer delayed by Hamas.

Hamas released a second group of Israeli and foreign civilians held hostage in the Gaza Strip after an unexpected delay of hours.

Israeli officials said 13 Israelis and four Thai nationals had returned to Israel.

In a statement issued jointly by the Israeli army and the Shin Bet security service, the Prime Minister’s Office said that the government “has embraced the return of 17 hostages, 13 our citizens and 4 Thai citizens.”

The militant wing of Hamas earlier said it had handed over 13 Israelis and seven foreigners to the Red Cross. The reason for the difference in the number of foreigners released has not yet been revealed.

The delivery came hours later than expected after Hamas accused Israel of violating the exchange deal, which Israeli officials denied.

Qatari and Egyptian mediators have created a tragedy for their relatives by allaying the Islamist group’s fears that Israel is interfering in the selection of prisoners to be released and by denying aid to northern Gaza during the four-day civil war.

Hamas said to Egyptian and Qatari mediators “I have given a positive response” after Israel promised to “maintain all the conditions of the agreement”.

In the second peace deal, Qatar said 13 Israeli hostages — eight children and five women — would be released in exchange for 39 Palestinian prisoners — 33 children and six women.

Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesman Majid Al Ansari said in an earlier tweet on X that seven foreigners detained in Gaza would also be released.

Israeli officials have denied any violation of the terms of the ceasefire.

Hamas has accused the Israeli army of preventing aid from reaching its main fighting hub in northern Gaza, where its troops have barred civilians from returning to a truce that began early Friday.

The United Nations human rights agency OCHA said in multiple reports on Friday that Israeli soldiers opened fire and fired tear gas at people walking north, killing at least one person and injuring dozens.

The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza said on Saturday that seven people were injured in the same incident.

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

Israel, for its part, is ordering exchanges at a three-for-one ratio under a deal to free 39 Palestinian women and children from its prisons.

10 Thais and one Filipino were also unexpectedly released by Hamas.

On October 7, Hamas fighters breached Gaza’s military border, killing about 1,200 Israelis and foreigners and abducting about 240 people.

Following the worst attack in its history, Israel’s ground offensive against Hamas has killed nearly 15,000 people, mostly civilians and thousands of children, with air, artillery and naval bombardments, the Hamas government in Gaza has announced.

‘home at last’

A video released by Hamas on Friday showed masked operatives wearing military fatigues with rifles and the green headgear of Hamas’ armed wing as they handed over the hostages to the Red Cross.

In Tel Aviv, the crowd cheered and raised the Israeli flag as the helicopters flew the freed prisoners.

“There was no one in the room who could contain their emotions and stop crying,” said Dr. Shoshi Goldner of Israel Wolfson Medical Center, where five elderly women were kidnapped.

“Finally, you’re in a safe place at home,” Goldner said.

Yael Adar, the 85-year-old daughter-in-law of former hostage Yafa Adar, told Israel’s Net News website, “We are very excited today about the returnees, but I want us not to forget about those who did not return.”

Hamas is expected to exchange 150 Palestinian prisoners and release a total of 50 hostages during the peacetime, as part of a deal brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States.

Egypt said it had received positive comments from both sides regarding the idea of ​​extending the truce for a day or two and releasing more hostages and prisoners.

In a statement to reporters, US President Joe Biden said the possibility of extending the truce could be real.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi called for a “permanent ceasefire and a complete end to this attack.”

But Israel’s army chief, Lt. Gen. Herzei Halevi, said the battle to remove Hamas would resume once the fighting was over.

“At the end of the ceasefire, we will immediately return to attack Gaza,” Halevi said.

We are doing this in order to disperse Hamas, to put a lot of pressure on them to return to where they came from as soon as possible, and as many of the abductees as possible are the last ones, he added.

Palestinians celebrate

Fireworks explode in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and crowds fill the streets. The released prisoners waved Palestinian and Hamas flags.

“I was waiting for the day I would be released from prison,” said Rawan Abu Matar, who served eight years for trying to stab an Israeli soldier.

In Israel, authorities have asked the media to allow the newly freed hostages to meet their loved ones in private.

Among those released are 76-year-old Hannah Katzir; According to her family, she uses a walking frame and needs medication.

Mothers and their children were also released, including 34-year-old Doron Katz-Asher and her two daughters.

Nine-year-old Ohad ran to hug his father after being released with his mother and grandmother in an emotional reunion at an Israeli hospital.

More help

The ceasefire in Gaza has opened the way for more aid to Palestinians struggling to survive due to water and other essentials. Israel had completely besieged Gaza.

Trucks carrying supplies, including fuel, food and medicine, began entering Gaza from Egypt through the Rafah crossing on Friday, with more arriving on Saturday.

In Rafah, many were waiting to fill up gas cylinders for cooking. “All the people are ready and hoping to make their lives easier,” said one resident, Ezzeddin Abu Omeira.

According to the United Nations, 1.7 million of Gaza’s 2.4 million people have been displaced by the conflict.

Since the truce, thousands have been returning home.

“We are peaceful people,” said Mahmoud Masoud, standing in front of flat buildings in Jabalia, northern Gaza. “Why did they destroy our houses?”

A woman is sitting on a pile of garbage with her head in her hands and crying.

In southern Gaza, AFPTV drone footage showed people walking or riding in donkey carts along a road piled with rubble.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is from a syndicated feed.)

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