As First Hostages Are Welcomed Home, Plans for Second Release Move Ahead

As First Hostages Are Welcomed Home, Plans for Second Release Move Ahead

Some two dozen hostages held in Gaza, including Israelis and Thai nationals, were released from captivity on Friday, Egyptian and Qatari officials said, and Israel confirmed it had freed 39 Palestinian prisoners and detainees, completing the first exchange laid out by a deal between Israel and Hamas for a temporary cease-fire.

The hostages were initially transferred to Egypt before being returned to Israel. Israeli officials released the names of the 13 freed Israeli hostages, all women and children. Four were young children and most of the nine women were over age 70.

After earlier statements that 12 Thais were also freed, the governments of Qatar and Egypt — which were involved in mediating the cease-fire deal — said the count was actually 10 Thais and one Filipino.

The start of the four-day truce brought a measure of hope for families missing loved ones, a brief reprieve for Gazans battered by seven weeks of war and a faint sense of optimism for a change in the trajectory of the conflict. Israel and Hamas have said they would abide by the deal, but past truces between the sides have often fallen apart, and both have signaled that they would continue fighting when the pause expires.

Still, the cease-fire has already enabled the delivery of more aid supplies to Gaza, where roughly two-thirds of its 2.2 million people have been displaced by the war. By evening, more than 140 trucks carrying humanitarian aid had entered Gaza from Egypt, according to the U.N. humanitarian office, including four carrying fuel and cooking gas. That is one of the biggest aid deliveries to Gaza since the start of the war — but still falls significantly short of the 500 trucks that typically entered the territory every day before the fighting.

Here’s what to know:
The cease-fire deal, brokered by Qatar in weeks of talks, calls for Hamas to return 50 of the women and children taken hostage during its Oct. 7 attacks in Israel, and for Israel to release 150 imprisoned or detained Palestinian women and teenagers. The exchange would occur in phases across the four days of the cease-fire.
The first group of 13 Israeli hostages — all women and children — were handed over to Israeli officials on Friday. Twelve of the newly released people were kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Oz. Read more about what we know about the newly released Israelis.
Qatar brokered a separate deal with Hamas to free the Thai hostages, who were agricultural workers living in southern Israel. They were among scores of foreign nationals who were abducted alongside Israelis on Oct. 7.
Qatar said that 39 Palestinians jailed in Israel, including 24 women and 15 male teenagers, were freed on Friday. Hundreds of cheering people surrounded a white bus carrying the freed Palestinians from Ofer prison in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Israel has said that it would extend the cease-fire by a day for every 10 additional hostages released by Hamas. Hamas has not commented directly on the offer but its top political official, Ismail Haniyeh, said on Friday his group was committed to making the truce work.

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