Hostages reunited with families
Three groups of hostages taken from Israel have now been released by Hamas as the ceasefire continues to hold. After coming into effect on Friday, 58 out of an estimated 240 Israeli citizens and foreign nationals taken by Hamas from Israel on 7 October have now been freed. And 120 Palestinians have been released from Israeli detention.
Who’s been released?
The Israeli citizens and foreign nations released by Hamas are mostly women and children who were kidnapped from the kibbutzim near the border with Gaza. Amongst the children was Ohad Munder, who turned 9yo in captivity and had an emotional reunion with father. Also returned was Emily Hand, a 9yo Israeli-Irish girl who was thought to have been killed in the initial 7 October attack. The released hostages also include more than a dozen Thai nationals as part of a separate agreement with Thailand’s government. As for the Palestinian detainees freed under the deal, all of them are women or children. One woman released was Sarah al-Suwaisa, who said that Israeli guards had fired tear gas at them before their release – she called her treatment “humiliating, psychological torture”.
So has it gone smoothly?
Friday’s hostage release did, but the planned release on Saturday was delayed due to concerns from Hamas over a lack of aid arriving in northern Gaza, as well as a cryptic accusation that Israel was “playing with the names” over which Palestinian prisoners would be released. An Israeli military spokesperson said, “We are standing by our part of the framework.” As for what comes next, while the initial hostage deal stipulated the release of 50 prisoners over 4 days, Israel has indicated that the truce could be extended if 10 Israelis are released each day. Earlier in the weekend, US President Joe Biden said “the chances are real” that a ceasefire could take hold.
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