Hamas to release 14 Israeli hostages

Sunday, 26 November 2023 - 2:48

Hamas is likely to release 14 captives they had taken with them after the 7 October surprise attack on Israel. This will be done in exchange for the release of 42 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, on the second day of the four day truce in the Israel-Hamas war that has been going on for over seven weeks now.

The development was confirmed by officials in Egypt. They also informed that it had received positive signals from all parties over a possible extension of the Gaza truce for one or two days.

On the first day of the four-day cease-fire, Hamas released 24 of the about 240 hostages taken during its October 7 attack on Israel that triggered the war, and Israel freed 39 Palestinians from prison. Those freed from captivity in Gaza were 13 Israelis, 10 Thais and a Filipino.

On Saturday, Hamas provided mediators Egypt and Qatar with a list of 14 hostages to be released, and the list has been passed along to Israel, according to a Egyptian official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to talk about details of the ongoing negotiations, AFP reported.

Further, Diaa Rashwan, the head of Egypt's State Information Service (SIS), said in a statement that the country was holding extensive talks with all parties to reach an agreement over extending the four-day truce, which "means the release of more detainees in Gaza and Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.", Reuters reported.

Under the truce agreement, Hamas will release one Israeli hostage for every three prisoners freed, and Israel's Prison Service had already said earlier Saturday it was preparing 42 prisoners for release.

Overall, Hamas is to release at least 50 Israeli hostages, and Israel 150 Palestinian prisoners during the four-day truce, all woman and minors.

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.

Separately, a Qatari delegation arrived in Israel on Saturday to coordinate with parties on the ground and “ensure the deal continues to move smoothly," according to a diplomat briefed on the visit. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to do discuss details with the media.

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. Rocket fire 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 October 21.

In the southern city of Khan Younis 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. The Palestinian Red Crescent said 61 trucks carrying food, water and medical supplies headed to northern Gaza on Saturday, the largest aid convoy to reach the area since the start of the war.

The relief brought by the truce 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. The short truce leaves Gaza mired in humanitarian crisis and under the threat that fighting could soon resume.

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