Home News Israel and Hamas exchange hostages and prisoners as truce begins

Israel and Hamas exchange hostages and prisoners as truce begins

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Israel and Hamas exchange hostages and prisoners as truce begins.

 

After nearly seven weeks of deadly fighting, Israel and Hamas have agreed to a four-day truce that began on Friday, November 24, 2023. The truce, mediated by Qatar, Egypt, and the United States, also involves a hostage and prisoner swap between the two sides.

 

The hostilities erupted on October 7, 2023, when Hamas and other Palestinian militants launched a surprise attack on southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people and capturing around 240 Israeli and foreign hostages, according to Israeli officials. Israel responded with a massive air, ground, and naval offensive that killed about 15,000 people in the Gaza Strip, the Hamas government in Gaza said.

 

The truce, which started at 7:00 am (0500 GMT), triggered a mass movement of thousands of Gazans who had sought refuge in schools and hospitals from relentless Israeli bombardment. Many of them returned to their homes, some of which were destroyed or damaged by the strikes.

 

As part of the deal, Hamas handed over 13 Israeli hostages, including four children and six elderly women, to the Red Cross, which transferred them to Israel. The hostages were given headphones, toys, and teddy bears, and underwent medical checks before being reunited with their families. Hamas also released 10 Thai citizens and a Filipino citizen who were working in Israel.

 

In exchange, Israel freed 39 Palestinian women and children from its prisons, 28 of whom were released in the occupied West Bank and 11 in annexed east Jerusalem. They were greeted by large crowds and firecrackers that lit up the night sky.

 

Over the four days, at least 50 hostages are expected to be freed, leaving an estimated 190 in the hands of Palestinian militants. In exchange, 150 Palestinians prisoners are expected to be released.

 

The truce also allowed more aid, including fuel, to enter Gaza from the Rafah crossing with Egypt. Gazans have struggled to survive with shortages of food, water, and fuel due to the Israeli blockade and the war.

 

The agreement came after weeks of talks involving Israel, Palestinian groups, Qatar, Egypt, and the United States. US President Joe Biden said Friday’s release was just a “start” and that there were “real” chances to extend the temporary truce in Gaza. He urged a broader effort to emerge from the crisis with a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel.

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to bring all the hostages home and said the war had achieved its goals of weakening Hamas and restoring Israel’s deterrence. He also thanked Qatar, Egypt, and the US for their roles in the mediation.

 

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the truce was a “victory” for the Palestinian people and a “defeat” for Israel. He said Hamas had shown its strength and resilience and had gained international recognition and support. He also praised Qatar, Egypt, and the US for their efforts to end the bloodshed.

 

The truce is the longest pause in the fighting since it began on October 7, 2023. The previous attempts to reach a ceasefire failed or were short-lived. The UN estimates that 1.7 million of Gaza’s 2.4 million people have been displaced by the war.

 

The truce is also seen as a rare opportunity to address the underlying issues of the conflict, such as the Israeli blockade, the Palestinian reconciliation, and the reconstruction of Gaza. However, the prospects of a lasting peace remain uncertain, as both sides have not yet agreed on a permanent ceasefire or a political solution.

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