24 Israeli hostages released; more to be freed today amid four-day truce
GAZA, November 25, 2023
A group of 24 hostages - including 13 Israelis and a number of Thais - were released by Palestinian militant group Hamas from the Gaza Strip on Friday, under a breakthrough four-day truce deal, reported Reuters.
Soon after, 39 Palestinian women and children detainees were released from Israeli jails and sent across the Beitunia checkpoint in the West Bank.
Under the terms of the Qatar deal, a total of 50 Israeli hostages and 150 Palestinian detainees will be released over four days during a temporary pause in the fighting.
The released hostages, including Israeli women and children - four of them aged two, four, six and nine - as well as an 85-year-old woman - and Thai farm workers, were transferred from Gaza and handed to Egyptian authorities at the Rafah border crossing, along with eight staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross in a four-car convoy, the organisation said.
They were then taken to an Egyptian hospital for medical assessments and later to Israel for medical checks and re-unions with relatives.
Israel meanwhile said it has received a list of hostages to be freed from Gaza on Saturday by Hamas.
Israeli security officials were reviewing the list, the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement, after his government's vow to work for the release of all hostages taken by Hamas in an attack on Israel on Oct. 7.
The pause in the fighting was the first such break, with both sides saying hostilities would resume as soon as the truce ends. US President Joe Biden expressed hope the pause could be extended, however.
Families of 13 Israeli hostages released by Hamas have spoken of their relief at their return. The group, which includes young children and elderly women, are now back in Israel after being brought by the Red Cross from Gaza into Egypt, reported BBC.
Ten Thai nationals and one Filipino were also released by Hamas, in a deal separate to the one mediated by Qatar.
"We have now completed the return of the first of our hostages. Children, their mothers and other women. Each and every one of them is a entire world," Netanyahu said.
"But I emphasise to you - the families, and to you - the citizens of Israel: We are committed to the return of all our hostages."
Yoni Asher's wife, Doron Katz Asher, 34, and their two daughters Raz, four, and Aviv, two, have been released.
"I am determined to bring about the resurrection of my family from the trauma and the terrible bereavement we went through," Asher told the BBC.
"I don't celebrate, I won't celebrate until the last of the kidnapped returns," he said.
"The families of the kidnapped are not posters, they are not slogans, they are real people, and the families of the kidnapped are from today my new family, and I will make sure and do everything that the last of the kidnapped comes home."
Margalit Moses, 78, was also among those released by Hamas. A cancer survivor, she was kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Oz by Hamas on 7 October.
Daniele Aloni and her six-year-old daughter Emilia have also been released as part of the deal. They were kidnapped on 7 October during a visit to stay with family in Kibbutz Nir Oz.
During the attacks, the last message Daniele sent to her family said that "there were terrorists in their house" and she was afraid that they would not survive.
Itay Ravi, whose 78-year-old cousin Avraham remains in captivity, says "this is one step towards being happy" after three of his family members were released.
His aunt, Ruthi Munder, 78, his cousin Keren Munder, 54, and her son, Ohad Munder-Zichri, nine, were kidnapped from Nir Oz.
"They're making their way now to Israeli hospitals, to family, and this is very exciting. However, we cannot be completely happy," he told BBC Newsnight.
"It's still a very, very horrific reality that we're in," Ravi added.
Ohad turned nine while being held in Gaza.
"The only celebration that we're going to have soon is [for] Ohad's ninth birthday," stated Ravi.
"Now we're going to have a big celebration for him, with all the friends and family, after he gets into the new reality. We'll see how he's back…I don't know how a nine-year-old comes back after 50 days in the hands of a terrorist, he added.