Hamas to release 14 Israeli hostages

Hamas to release 14 Israeli hostages

KHAN YOUNIS: Hamas will release 14 Israeli hostages in exchange for Israel freeing 42 Palestinian prisoners Saturday as part of an ongoing swap during a four-day cease-fire, according to a senior Egyptian official.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to talk about details of the ongoing negotiations, said that mediators Egypt and Qatar have given Israel a list of those hostages to be released provided by Hamas. A second official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the details. The upcoming swap on day two of the truce follows Hamas’ release Friday of 24 of the approximately 240 hostages it took during its Oct. 7 attack on Israel that triggered the war. In exchange Israel freed 39 Palestinians from prison.

Those freed from captivity in Gaza were 13 Israelis, 10 Thai nationals and a citizen of the Philippines. Iran facilitated Friday’s release of 10 Thai hostages from Gaza, providing a list of names to Palestinian group Hamas after a request to do so by Thailand’s Foreign Ministry and parliamentary speaker, Iran’s embassy in Thailand said on social media. Thailand’s government says that 20 of its nationals are still being held by Hamas.

It was not immediately clear if any non-Israeli captives may also be released Saturday. During the four days, Hamas is to release at least 50 Israeli hostages, and Israel 150 Palestinian prisoners. Israel has said the truce can be extended an extra day for every additional 10 hostages freed — something United States President Joe Biden said he hoped would come to pass.

The start of the truce Friday morning brought the first quiet for 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. Rocketfire from Gaza militants into Israel went silent as well. The United Nations said the pause enabled it to scale up the delivery of food, water, and medicine to the largest volume since the resumption of humanitarian aid convoys on Oct. 21. It was also able to deliver 129,000 liters (34,078 gallons) of fuel — just over 10 percent of the daily pre-war volume — as well as cooking gas, a first time since the war began.

In the southern city of Khan Yunis on Saturday, a long line of people with gas cans and other containers waited outside a filling station hoping to get some of the newly delivered fuel. For the first time in over a month, aid reached northern Gaza, the focus of Israel’s ground offensive. A UN convoy delivered flour to two facilities sheltering people displaced by fighting.

The UN said it and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society were also able to evacuate 40 patients and family members from a hospital in Gaza City, where much of the fighting has taken place, to a hospital in Khan Yunis. The relief brought by the ceasefire has been tempered, however, for both sides — among Israelis by the fact that not all hostages will be freed and among Palestinians by the brevity of the pause. — Arab News