The pro-Palestinian terrorist group Hamas Saturday released another batch of hostages, consisting of 13 Israeli citizens and 4 Thais, in exchange for another 39 prison inmates held by Tel Aviv, matching the 1:3 ratio agreed upon for the duration of the humanitarian truce. The exchanges took longer than expected, it was reported.
The Israelis released were confirmed as Sharon Avigdori (52) and her daughter Noam (12), Noam Or (16) and his sister Alma (13), Hila Rotem Shoshani (13), Emily Hand (9), Mia Regev (21), Noga Weiss (18) and her mother Shiri, Shoshan Haran (67), Adi Shoham (38) and his children Yahal (3) and Neve (8). Among those released from Israeli prisons were 33 children and 6 women.
Hamas had said it would delay the release of a second group of Israeli hostages after accusing Israel of violating the terms of the agreement they had reached regarding the entry of humanitarian aid and the release of Palestinian prisoners. But the situation returned to normal when Qatar announced that 13 Israeli hostages and four foreigners held in Gaza would be released in exchange for 39 Palestinian prisoners.
The four-day ceasefire, brokered by Qatar with the support of the United States and Egypt, provides for the release of 50 Israeli hostages held in Gaza and 150 Palestinians imprisoned in Israel, as well as the daily entry of 200 trucks of humanitarian aid into Gaza.
Israel confirmed that the Hamas hostages were in the hands of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) through the Rafah crossing into Egypt before arriving on Israeli soil. The released hostages underwent an initial medical examination inside Israeli territory. They will continue to be accompanied by IDF soldiers on their way to Israeli hospitals, where they will be reunited with their families, the Israeli army said in a statement.
After the initial delay, Israel threatened the Islamist group with a resumption of the military offensive in Gaza if it did not release the second batch of prisoners by midnight. Hamas argued that the aid reaching northern Gaza was much less than what was agreed.
The Palestinian prisoners - 6 women and 33 teenagers accused of terrorism - were handed over to the ICRC and eventually transferred to the West Bank town of Beitunia. We will continue in the coming days to implement the plan to release the prisoners as part of the operation to return the abductees to their homes, the Israel Prison Service said in a statement.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israeli forces would not leave Gaza until all hostages were returned to Israel, and that any future negotiations with Hamas would take place amid fighting. Any future negotiations will be criticized. I mean, if they want to continue discussing the next agreement, it will be while bombs are falling and troops are fighting; that's the basis, Gallant told Israeli troops on his first visit to Gaza since the war began. We cannot stop the operation and the war in Gaza until we bring back all the hostages because we have many more, he added.