Hamas handed over 13 Israeli prisoners and four Thai nationals to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) after a seven-hour delay, with the group claiming Israel had violated the terms of a truce.
The impasse was resolved through the mediation of Qatar and Egypt on Saturday, the second day of the pause in hostilities in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel is now expected to release 39 Palestinian prisoners from its jails.
Majed al-Ansari, a spokesperson for Qatar’s Foreign Ministry, said in a message on X that 13 Israelis and four foreign nationals had been handed over to the ICRC. They were heading to the Rafah border crossing, between southern Gaza and Egypt, before heading to Israel.
The 17 captives had arrived in Israel, the Israeli army announced on X.
“After undergoing an initial medical assessment, they will continue to be accompanied by IDF (Israeli Army) soldiers as they head to Israeli hospitals, where they will be reunited with their families,” the statement said.
Al Jazeera’s Hamdah Salhut, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, said the 17 released were “taken to an air base in southern Israel for an initial check, where they will then be flown to several hospitals locations in the Tel Aviv area for additional medical and psychological checks. “.
Among the Israeli prisoners were six adult women and seven children and adolescents, according to a statement from the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office. The hostages were released after spending 50 days in captivity, the statement said.
Delay in delivery
Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan said earlier that aid deliveries authorized by Israel fell short of what was promised and did not reach northern Gaza, which was the target. of the Israeli offensive.
Only 65 out of 340 aid trucks who have entered Gaza since Friday have reached northern Gaza, which is “less than half of what Israel agreed to,” Hamdan said from Beirut.
Israel said 50 trucks carrying food, water, shelter and medical supplies had been deployed to northern Gaza under United Nations supervision, the first significant aid delivery since the war began seven weeks ago.
The Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ armed wing, earlier said Israel had failed to respect the terms of the deal. Palestinian prisoner release.
Qadura Fares, the Palestinian commissioner for prisoners, said Israel had not released detainees by seniority, as planned.
The row over the second exchange of captives for prisoners dashed hopes after the release of 13 Israeli women and children by Hamas on Friday. Ten Thai nationals and a Philippine citizen were released in a separate deal, and 39 Palestinians women and adolescents were released from Israeli prisons.
Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari said the government was committed to honoring the truce agreement with Hamas, but that many parties and factors were involved. “And every day brings its share of complexities,” he added.
Again, at least two Palestinians were reportedly killed by the Israeli army and 11 injured while trying to reach northern Gaza on Friday.
A large number of displaced people were trying to get home through Gaza as the four-day truce negotiated by Qatar came into effect on Friday. However, Israel warned the population that they would not be allowed to enter the north of the war-torn enclave.
“Joy is also resistance”
Meanwhile, many Palestinian families awaited the release of their loved ones from Israeli prisons.
Safaa Merie, who was among hundreds of people gathered to welcome the prisoners in Beitunia, told Al Jazeera she was expecting a 14-year-old boy on behalf of her family members from the northern city of Jenin. busy. Bank.
“Because of the Israeli military checkpoints it is very difficult to come here, almost impossible,” she told Al Jazeera.
“I don’t know him but we are all here to welcome all the prisoners.”
Manal Tamimi told Al Jazeera in El-Bireh, also in the occupied West Bank, that she was awaiting the release of her teenage nephew Wisam after seven months.
“Our brothers and sisters in Gaza, our hearts bleed for them,” she said.
“But we think that joy is also resistance and (we should not) let the occupier break us, break our happiness.”
Extension of the truce?
Before the issue of the latest hostage and prisoner exchange, Egypt, which controls the Rafah border crossing through which aid supplies resumed to southern Gaza, said it had received “positive signals” from all sides. the parties on a possible extension of the pause in southern Gaza. struggle.
Diaa Rashwan, head of Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS), said in a statement that Cairo was holding in-depth negotiations with all parties to reach an agreement that would mean “the release of more detainees in Gaza and Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons.
Israel has said the truce could be extended if Hamas continues to release hostages at a rate of at least 10 per day. A Palestinian source said up to 100 hostages could be freed.
For now, 50 of around 240 hostages are to be exchanged for 150 Palestinian prisoners over four days as part of the truce, the first break in fighting since Hamas attacked southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people.
Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas, raining bombs and shells on the enclave and launching a ground offensive in the north. Israel’s relentless bombardment has killed more than 14,800 people, about 40 percent of them children, Palestinian health authorities said Saturday.