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Business News/ News / World/  Israel-Gaza War: Hamas frees 17 hostages, including 4-year-old American; Israel releases 39 Palestinian prisoners
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Israel-Gaza War: Hamas frees 17 hostages, including 4-year-old American; Israel releases 39 Palestinian prisoners

US President Joe Biden expressed his desire for the ceasefire to continue as long as hostages are being released.

A helicopter transporting hostages released by Hamas arrives at Schneider Children Medical Center in Petah Tikva after they were released by the Palestinian militant group from the Gaza Strip on November 26, 2023. Hamas militants released a third group of hostages including a four-year-old American girl on November 26, in exchange for 39 Palestinian prisoners on the third day of a truce which a source close to the militants said they were willing to prolong. (Photo by GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP) (AFP)Premium
A helicopter transporting hostages released by Hamas arrives at Schneider Children Medical Center in Petah Tikva after they were released by the Palestinian militant group from the Gaza Strip on November 26, 2023. Hamas militants released a third group of hostages including a four-year-old American girl on November 26, in exchange for 39 Palestinian prisoners on the third day of a truce which a source close to the militants said they were willing to prolong. (Photo by GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP) (AFP)

Hamas released 17 hostages in Gaza, including a 4-year-old American girl, as part of a truce with Israel as Israel freed 39 Palestinian prisoners on the third day of the ceasefire.

As reported by Reuters, the International Committee of the Red Cross facilitated the successful transfer of the hostages, consisting of 13 Israelis, three Thais, and one individual with Russian citizenship, according to Hamas.

According to the Palestinian news agency WAFA, the release of the hostages - part of a larger group captured when Hamas fighters rampaged through southern Israel on Oct. 7 - was mirrored by the freeing of 39 Palestinians, all of whom are teenagers.

Hamas further said a willingness to prolong the truce on the condition that substantial efforts were undertaken to augment the number of Palestinian detainees released by Israel.

Also Read: Hamas seeks to extend truce with Israel with some conditions

US President Joe Biden expressed his desire for the ceasefire to continue as long as hostages are being released. He also expressed hope that more Americans would be freed by Hamas, although he acknowledged not having definitive information at that time, Reuters reported.

Biden said the 4-year-old hostage, Abigail Edan, had witnessed her parents being killed by Hamas fighters during their Oct. 7 raid into Israel and had been held since then.

"What she endured is unthinkable," Biden said at a news conference in the US.

Abigail was on her way to the hospital for checks, Israel's Channel 13 said. Her grandfather, Carmel Edan, told Reuters he "simply could not believe" she had been returned, thanking Biden “for all the help he's offered us."

Also Read: Israel-Hamas war: Egypt receives lists of 13 Israelis, 39 Palestinians to be release today

Palestinians gave the freed prisoners a jubilant reception in Ramallah, according to WAFA.

Omar Abdullah Al Hajj, 17, one of the detainees released Sunday, said he'd been kept in the dark about what was happening in the outside world.

“I can't believe I'm free now but my joy is incomplete because we still have our brothers who remain in prison, and then there is all the news about Gaza that I am having to learn about now," he told Reuters.

The four-day ceasefire marks the first break in hostilities in seven weeks since Hamas killed 1,200 people and re-entered Gaza with approximately 240 hostages. In response to the Hamas attack, Israel has committed to eradicating the Hamas militants in control of Gaza, conducting airstrikes and launching a ground offensive in the north.

Also Read: Gaza war: A pause is welcome but sustainable peace is a must

According to Gaza health authorities, around 14,800 Palestinians have been killed, and hundreds of thousands have been displaced as a result of the conflict.

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a meeting with security forces within the Gaza Strip. He mentioned having a conversation with President Biden regarding the release of hostages and expressed his openness to extending a temporary truce. Netanyahu stated that he would be supportive of prolonging the ceasefire if it resulted in the release of 10 captives for each additional day.

However Netanyahu said he also told Biden that, at the end of the truce, “we will return with full force to achieve our goals: The elimination of Hamas, ensuring that Gaza does not return to what it was; and of course the release of all our hostages."

Also Read: Israel kills civilians in occupied West Bank despite ‘fragile’ pause in war with Hamas

Reuters reported that Sunday's hostage release follows the liberation of 13 Israelis on Saturday - six of them women and seven of them teenagers or children. The youngest was 3-year-old Yahel Shoham, freed with her mother and brother, although her father remains a hostage.

“Israel freed 39 Palestinians the same day - six women and 33 teenagers - from two prisons," WAFA said.

Also Read: Israel-Gaza War Day 52: Biden vows to ensure return of every hostage as additional releases facilitated | Top 10 updates

According to a Palestinian source, the potential release of hostages could reach up to 100 individuals. Qatar, Egypt, and the United States are actively advocating for an extension of the truce beyond Monday, although it remains uncertain whether such an extension will be agreed upon. Ongoing clashes and accusations have posed a threat to the existing agreement, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Red Crescent said that the killing of a Palestinian farmer in the central Gaza Strip had earlier added to those concerns. The farmer was killed when targeted by Israeli forces east of Gaza's long-established Maghazi refugee camp.

Also Read: Israel-Hamas war Day 51: Israeli authorities release 33 children, 6 Palestinian women under hostage deal. Top 10 updates

The armed wing of Hamas also said on Sunday that four of its military commanders in the Gaza Strip had been killed, including the commander of the North Gaza brigade, Ahmad Al Ghandour. It did not say when they had been killed.

Violence has also flared in the West Bank, where Israeli forces killed seven Palestinians, including two minors and at least one gunman, late on Saturday and early Sunday, medics and local sources told Reuters.

Even before the attacks from Gaza on October 7, the West Bank had experienced unrest, marked by increased Israeli army raids, Palestinian attacks, and violence by Israeli settlers in the preceding 18 months. Over 200 Palestinians in the West Bank have been killed since October 7, some as a result of Israeli airstrikes.

The agreement faced a previous challenge when Hamas' armed wing announced on Saturday that it would postpone hostage releases until Israel fulfilled all truce conditions, including a commitment to allowing aid trucks into northern Gaza.

Saving the truce took a day of diplomacy mediated by Qatar and Egypt, which President Biden also joined.

Hamas' al-Qassam Brigades also said Israel had failed to respect terms for the release of Palestinian prisoners that factored in their time in detention.

COGAT, the Israeli agency for civilian coordination with the Palestinians, accused Hamas itself of delaying trucks trying to deliver humanitarian aid to northern Gaza at a checkpoint.

Also Read: Joe Biden backs extension of war pause after latest release by Hamas

"To Hamas, residents of Gaza are their last priority," it said on Sunday.

“Qatari diplomats are now on site in Gaza to supervise the entry and delivery of their country's aid", Qatar's Foreign Ministry said.

A UN official who took part in a humanitarian convoy to northern Gaza said on Sunday aid groups were on track to deliver the biggest shipment in over a month, describing thin, gaunt residents slaking their thirst as soon as water arrived.

“People are so desperate and you can see in adults' eyes they haven't eaten," the UN children's agency's James Elder told Reuters by video link from southern Gaza after returning from Gaza City.

"There's just this immense relief. Literally people as they get water start drinking the water immediately," he said. “They're thirsty. They've been thirsty for days," he added.

“Even as the aid deliveries flowed north," Elder said he saw hundreds of Gazans heading in the other direction, fearing the renewal of Israeli bombardments if the four-day truce is not prolonged.

"People are so terrified that this pause won't be continued," he said.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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Published: 27 Nov 2023, 06:28 AM IST
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