Hamas releases 13 Israeli hostages
Palestinian militant group Hamas released the first set of Israeli hostages on Friday, according to national media. The group, which had been held captive in Gaza since October 7, has already crossed from Gaza into Egypt, the Times of Israel reported.
The release of the 13 hostages was reportedly supervised by staff from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The organization’s ambulances are said to have taken the group from Khan Younis in southern Gaza to the Rafah crossing on the Egyptian border.
Unverified footage shared online purports to show the ambulance convoy carrying the hostages. Israel is expected to reciprocate with the release of a number of Palestinian prisoners by the end of the day.
The current truce is expected to last for four days, with the two sides set to exchange a total of 50 Israeli women and children for 150 Palestinian civilians held in Israeli jails.
According to Israeli media reports, law enforcement is already preventing neighbors and reporters from gathering around the homes of some of the Palestinian prisoners slated for release, in order to deprive Hamas of a “victory picture.” The militant group has named the release of Palestinians held in Israeli jails as among its main goals in the ongoing conflict.
More than 200 people, including foreign nationals, were taken hostage by Hamas during its October 7 attack on southern Israel, which left some 1,200 people dead. According to the Palestinian militant group, a number of the hostages were killed during Israel’s retaliatory bombing campaign in Gaza.
Weeks of airstrikes and artillery shelling of the enclave, followed by a land incursion by Israeli forces, have caused widespread destruction. Nearly 15,000 Palestinians, including some 6,000 children, have been killed, according to local health officials.