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Israel aircraft prepares to receive hostages released by Hamas. IDF photo

First Hostages Released by Hamas; Swap Is Underway

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Hostages released by Hamas are currently with Israeli Special Forces and ISA Forces (Shin Bet), the Israel Defense Forces said today.

“The released hostages underwent an initial medical assessment inside Israeli territory,” the IDF said in a statement sent via WhatsApp. “They will continue to be accompanied by IDF soldiers as they make their way to Israeli hospitals, where they will be reunited with their families.”

The swap was underway Friday in the Middle East, with the Hamas militant group releasing 13 Israeli women and children and 12 Thai nationals who were abducted in Israel on October 7. In exchange, the Israelis freed about 150 Palestinian prisoners. 

The Israelis were handed over to the Red Cross in the Gaza Strip, and initially went to Egypt, according to officials in Jerusalem. The Thai abductees, according to officials in Bangkok and Jerusalem, crossed into Israel on Friday evening and were to undergo health checks at the Shamir Medical Center, southeast of Tel Aviv. 

The exchanges come hours after a scheduled four-day truce between Israel and Hamas went into effect. The truce includes a comprehensive cease-fire in north and south Gaza, Qatar Foreign Ministry spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari told journalists in Doha earlier. 

According to the deal, 50 women and children who were abducted from Israel by Hamas are to be released in exchange for Palestinian women and minors held in Israeli prisons. 

“We all hope that this truce will lead to a chance to start a wider work to achieve a permanent truce,” Al-Ansari said. 

Under the current deal, Israel is to pause its attacks on Gaza for four days. Additionally, Hamas confirmed on its Telegram channel that attacks from its forces also would pause. 

Israel said the four-day stop in fighting would be extended an extra day for every 10 additional hostages freed by Hamas. The Qatari spokesperson said Doha hopes to broker another agreement to release more hostages from Gaza by the truce’s fourth day. The International Committee of the Red Cross said it could assist with any release. 

Israel and Hamas have both said they will return to fighting once the truce concludes.

The spokesperson of Hamas’ armed wing on Thursday called for increased hostilities with Israel. 

Following the truce, Israel’s military will resume operations, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Friday.

With reporting from VOA.

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