The Israel Prison Service has confirmed the fourth round of releases of Palestinian prisoners, from Katziot, Nafha, Ramon, Damon, Megiddo and Ofer prisons. The prisoners had been gathered in Ofer prison, near the West Bank town of Betunia, from where they are being taken by the Red Cross to various Israeli military checkpoints. These new releases will join the 51 Israelis released so far under the truce, along with 19 hostages of other nationalities and 150 Palestinians released by Israel.
The Israeli Government and the Islamist group Hamas agreed this Monday to extend the truce, the exchange of hostages for prisoners and the entry of aid to Gaza, for two more days, giving a respite to the two million Gazans who have suffered a month and a half of incessant bombings and hope to Israeli families hoping to recover their loved ones.
Even before the list was closed with the names of the captives and prisoners who would be exchanged this Monday, Hamas and Qatar announced that the truce that began on Friday and ended today was being extended until Thursday, which raises the possibility of new exchanges. of hostages held by militants by Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.
Eleven Israeli women, children and teenagers freed by Hamas after more than seven weeks in captivity in Gaza returned to their homes last night in the fourth exchange under the original four-day truce, which began on Friday and was about to end.
Meanwhile, 33 Palestinian prisoners released by Israel arrived this morning in East Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah, greeted with loud cheers as the bus moved through the streets of Ramallah, reports the Associated Press.
The Palestinian prisoners released so far have been mostly teenagers accused of throwing stones and firebombs during clashes with Israeli forces, or of less serious crimes. But some were convicted of alleged attempts to carry out stabbings, bombings and shootings. Many Palestinians see prisoners held by Israel, including those involved in attacks, as heroes resisting the occupation.
After weeks of national trauma over the approximately 240 people abducted by Hamas and other militants, scenes of women and children being reunited with their families have galvanized Israelis to intensify negotiations to allow the held captives to return to their homes. "We can get all the hostages home.
We have to keep pushing," two relatives of Abigail Edan, a four-year-old girl with dual Israeli-American citizenship who was freed Sunday, said in a statement.
The agreement on two additional days of ceasefire announced by Qatar has raised hopes of further extensions, which will also allow more aid to reach Gaza, where 2.3 million Palestinians remain battered by weeks of Israeli bombing and a ground offensive that has driven three quarters of the population from their homes.
Israel has said it would extend the ceasefire by one day for every 10 additional hostages freed. Following the announcement by Qatar - a key mediator in the conflict, along with the United States and Egypt - Hamas confirmed that it had agreed to a two-day extension "under the same terms."
But Israel says it remains committed to neutralizing Hamas's military capabilities and ending its 16-year rule over Gaza after its Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, which would result in a broader ground offensive from the devastated north of Gaza to the south.
More than 14,000 Palestinians and at least 1,200 Israelis have been killed, according to the media office of the Gaza government and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), since Hamas militants launched an attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip on the 7th. October, and the Israeli operations in Gaza and the West Bank that followed in retaliation.
Hamas and other militias could still hold up to 175 hostages in the Strip, enough to potentially extend the ceasefire for two and a half weeks. But there are several soldiers among them, and Hamas is likely to set more demanding conditions for their release.
The newly freed hostages include three women and nine children (including three-year-old twin girls and their mother) from Kibbutz Nir Oz, a community near Gaza that was hard hit by the Hamas attack on October 7 and of whom 49 of its residents remain in captivity, including the twins' father. The Israeli military said last night that the hostages were undergoing initial medical checks in Israel before being reunited with their families.
Most of the hostages freed so far appear to be physically fine. But Elma Avraham, 84, discharged Sunday, was flown to Israel's Soroka Medical Center in life-threatening conditions due to inadequate care, the hospital said.
Avraham's daughter, Tali Amano, said her mother was "hours away from dying" when she was taken to the hospital. Avraham is currently sedated and on assisted breathing. Avraham suffered from several chronic illnesses that required regular medication, but she was stable before being kidnapped, Amano said yesterday.
So far, 19 people of other nationalities have been released during the truce, mostly Thai citizens. Many Thais work in Israel, mainly as agricultural workers.
France said three of the hostages freed Monday had dual French-Israeli citizenship, two 12-year-old boys and one 16-year-old. The French government is "working tirelessly" to free five other French citizens held hostage, the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement.