13 Israeli hostages are freed from Gaza as ceasefire holds; more expected in coming days


This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Hamas released 13 Israeli hostages into Egypt on Friday, a sign that the four-day ceasefire brokered between Israel and the terror group that runs Gaza was holding.

Ten Thai nationals and one Filipino national were also released in a surprise additional deal that Egyptian officials said they had brokered. Thirty-nine Palestinian prisoners were released from Israel as part of the agreement, and multiple tankers of humanitarian aid entered the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli government released the names of those released: Yaffa Adar, 85; Chana Peri, 79; Margalit Mozes, 77; Ruth Mundar, 78, Keren Mundar, 54, and Ohad Mundar, 9; Chana Katzir, 76; Adina Moshe, 72; Danielle Aloni, 45, and Emilia Aloni, 5; Doron Katz-Asher, 34, and her children Rav Asher, 4, and Aviv Asher, 2.

They are heading into Israel after being driven to Egypt by the International Committee of the Red Cross via the Rafah border crossing. They will immediately undergo medical and psychological evaluations at Hatzerim Air Base, Israel’s health ministry has said. CNN reported that at least two were sent directly to hospitals.

According to reports, at least some of the hostages are not aware that they had family members killed on Oct. 7.

The temporary truce agreed upon earlier this week looked like it could have hit a snag, as the Israeli Defense Forces shelled parts of Gaza into the early hours of Friday morning and shot at Gazans attempting to return to the northern part of the coastal enclave. But Israeli military and Hamas forces held off from fighting at the agreed upon time on Friday morning, as did the Hezbollah terror group on Israel’s border with Lebanon.

On Tuesday, Israel and Hamas agreed to a temporary ceasefire that involves, over the course of four days, the release of around 50 of the over 200 Israelis who have been captured in Gaza since Oct. 7. Afterward, Hamas can extend the truce by releasing an additional 10 hostages a day. Along the way, Israel will release three Palestinian prisoners for every released hostage.

It is as of now unclear what happens after the first four days of the truce. As the hostages were en route to Israel, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said “Hamas will pursue its effort to halt the Israeli assault on Gaza” and “complete the prisoner exchange.”

President Joe Biden called a press conference to address the hostage release, noting that he was very involved in conversations with Israeli, Qatari and Egyptian officials in the lead-up to Friday. He also called on the Israeli military to work to avoid further Palestinian casualties in Gaza and emphasized his continued push for a two-state solution.

“My expectation and hope is that as we move forward, the rest of the Arab world and the region is also putting pressure on all sides to slow this down, to bring this to an end as quickly as we can,” Biden said.

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