The first group of 13 Israeli hostages, including women and children, have been handed over to the Red Cross in Gaza and subsequently crossed into Egypt according to Israeli media. The truce, mediated by Qatar, involves a four-day pause in the fighting.
Hamas plans to release a total of 50 hostages, while Israel has committed to releasing 150 Palestinian prisoners in exchange. Among those released were 12 Thai nationals, according to Thailand’s Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin. Reports suggest that more Israelis may have been released, with conflicting information on whether they were handed over to the Red Cross or taken into Egyptian custody.
The truce officially began in Gaza at 7 am local time, and aid trucks from Egypt started entering the Gaza Strip 90 minutes after the ceasefire commenced. However, an Israeli military spokesman cautioned that the war is not over, and Israel’s defense minister vowed to continue the fight forcefully after the brief truce.
The total number of casualties from the conflict, which began with Hamas attacks on October 7, is staggering. Hamas claims that its attacks resulted in the deaths of 1,200 people and the hostage-taking of around 240 individuals. In retaliation, Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry reports over 14,000 casualties from Israel’s campaign.
While the truce has brought a temporary halt to the hostilities, the situation remains complex, with families eagerly awaiting the release of their loved ones and expressing mixed emotions about the ongoing conflict. The release of hostages and prisoners is expected to occur in stages over the four-day pause in fighting, with additional aid entering Gaza, including medical supplies, fuel, and food.
The international community, including Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, has urged Israel to reconsider its offensive, citing the unbearable number of Palestinian casualties, including thousands of children. As the situation unfolds, the Rafah border between Egypt and Gaza is being prepared to receive the released hostages, signaling a delicate but hopeful step towards a more extended peace.