Israel-Hamas hostage deal: Hamas frees first batch of hostages under truce, including 13 Israelis


In this ongoing coverage, we delve into the current developments in the Gaza Strip. Over the past hour, a significant development unfolded in the Israel-Hamas conflict, marking the initial breakthrough. Hostages, as we understand, have now been freed, and the screens display the first glimpses of these individuals. Hamas, as part of a negotiated deal, has released Israeli citizens, predominantly comprising women and children, totaling 13 individuals. The transfer occurred at the Rafa border crossing, overseen by the Egyptian authorities.

In addition to the 13 Israeli Nationals, 10 Thai farm workers, innocent agricultural laborers uninvolved in regional politics, and one Filipino national were also among those released by Hamas. Summing up the count, 24 individuals have regained their freedom. Conversely, Israel has released 39 Palestinians, mainly women and young children, fostering hopes for a de-escalation of the conflict.

Moments ago, near the Ofer prison, Israeli Security Forces employed tear gas on Palestinian families awaiting the release of the prisoners. This action underscores the delicate nature of the situation. The tear gas incident occurred as part of a gathering where families anticipated the return of Palestinian prisoners to the West Bank.

Estimates suggest that Israel currently holds 7,000 to 8,000 Palestinians on various security charges, with approximately 2,000 to 3,000 arrests since October 7th. The release of hostages has raised expectations for a potential reduction in the conflict, which has intensified violence in the occupied West Bank. However, Israel remains resolute in its intention to resume a comprehensive air and ground offensive once the agreed-upon 4-day humanitarian pause concludes.

The scenes outside the Ofer prison capture the tension, with Israeli security forces resorting to tear gas to disperse Palestinian families. This moment is a crucial attempt to temper the ongoing war’s intensity, which has resulted in a humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip. The toll stands at over 15,000 Palestinians killed, with 70% of the victims being women and children. Tragically, more than 6,000 of the casualties are innocent young children, often unaware of their Palestinian identity, caught in the crossfire since October 7th.

Joining us for insights, correspondent Jody K provides additional information. While confirming the release of hostages, Jody highlights the unverified reports of tear gas usage, emphasizing the need for further confirmation. The 13 Israeli hostages, now in Israeli custody, include nine adults and six elderly women, offering a glimpse into the diverse group. For context, three members of the Munda family, initially captured by Hamas, have been among those released.

Jody sheds light on the criteria for release, where Israel insisted on not releasing individuals involved in the murder of Israelis in terror attacks. On the Palestinian side, there appears to be a focus on prioritizing women and those under 18. As the next four days unfold, attention is expected to shift towards the release of children, including a newborn born in captivity, awaiting confirmation for release.

The health condition of the released captives remains uncertain, given the challenging conditions in Gaza over the past 49 days. The Red Cross, denied access by Hamas during the captivity, will now have the opportunity to assess and treat the hostages as they arrive in Israeli hospitals.

Retired Colonel David deos, a professor at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, provides analysis on this pivotal moment. While acknowledging the encouraging development, he cautions that time will tell if it truly marks a turning point. Expressing concern about potential fragmentation on the Palestinian side, he underscores the role of mediation by CTER and Egypt in bringing the parties together.

In this evolving situation, progress has been made, and the exchange of hostages and prisoners is a positive step. However, uncertainties linger, and the complexities of the conflict remain, awaiting further developments.

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