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25 Nov, 2023 21:22

Hamas releases new group of hostages

Four foreigners and 13 Israelis were handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross
Hamas releases new group of hostages

The armed wing of Hamas said that it handed over a new group of 20 captives to the ICRC on Saturday night. The IDF has confirmed that the hostages have been transferred back to Israel through the Palestinian enclave’s border with Egypt.

The Israel Defence Forces has acknowledged the exchange, but said that according to its information only “17 abductees were transferred, including 13 Israelis and four abductees with Thai citizenship.”

“An elite unit of the IDF and a force of the Shin Bet are now accompanying the abductees who have returned to Israel in Israel. After undergoing an initial assessment of their medical condition, our forces will accompany the returnees until they reach their families in the hospitals,” the IDF added.

The prisoner swap had been delayed after Hamas accused Israel of violating the deal on the second day of the temporary truce, but eventually took place “in the context of the humanitarian pause,” the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades said in a statement, as cited by AFP.

“After a delay, obstacles to release of prisoners were overcome through Qatari-Egyptian contacts with both sides,” Qatari Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Majed Al Ansari said earlier in the day, adding that eight Israeli children and five women would be freed, in addition to seven foreigners, in exchange for the release of 39 Palestinian civilians from Israeli prisons.

On Friday, the first day of the four-day ceasefire that has paused the intense bombardment of the besieged enclave, Hamas released 24 of around 240 hostages seized by its militants since the surprise attack that triggered seven weeks of war so far. In exchange, Israel freed 39 Palestinians. The hostages released from captivity in Gaza were 13 Israelis, ten people from Thailand, and one from the Philippines.

Under the terms of the ceasefire, Hamas has agreed to release one Israeli hostage for every three Palestinian prisoners freed from Israeli jails. Israel’s prison service said on Saturday that it was preparing for the release of a further 42 Palestinian prisoners, while Hamas was expected to exchange 14 Israelis and several foreigners. 

Throughout the four-day truce, Hamas is expected to release around 50 Israeli captives, while Israel is set to hand over 150 Palestinians – all of whom are women and children. Israel has also indicated that the cease-fire can be extended by a day for every ten hostages freed by Hamas.