Hamas fighters release more hostages after family reunion

Hamas fighters release more hostages after family reunion

Hamas fighters were scheduled to release a third group of Israeli hostages on Sunday in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, a day after freeing prisoners including a young woman snatched from a desert rave.

In a sign of the fragility of the exchanges, the latest exchanges on Saturday were postponed for several hours after Hamas accused Israel of violating an agreement that led to a four-day ceasefire in the seven-week war.

Despite the conflict, Hamas eventually released 13 Israeli and four Thai hostages overnight, officials said.

Israel announced that it had released 39 Palestinian prisoners of war.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced that Hamas had received a list of hostages it plans to release on Sunday.

The list was being checked by security officials and families of the hostages had been informed, the newspaper said.

Among the hostages freed late Saturday was 21-year-old Maya Regev, who was kidnapped by Hamas fighters in the deadly attack on the Supernova music festival, which began on October 7 against Israel. It is a brutal episode in a widespread attack of the day.

She was the first hostage at the music festival to be freed since armed Hamas fighters stormed the event, killing hundreds and taking prisoners, with some fleeing for their lives.

Video posted on social media after the attack showed Maya Regev and her 18-year-old brother Itai, who were also abducted from the festival, tied to the back of a pickup truck.

“I am so excited and happy that Maya is now on her way to us. Nevertheless, my heart is torn because my son Itai is still a prisoner of Hamas in Gaza.” ” said his mother Milit in a statement released by the Hostage Families Forum.

– ‘Sigh of relief’ –
The family of freed Israeli-Irish nine-year-old Emily Hand said they were “overjoyed” to be able to hold her again.

“There are no words to express our emotions after 50 difficult and complicated days,” the family said in a statement via the forum.

“While we are overjoyed to be able to hug Emily again, we also remember… all the hundreds of hostages who have yet to return.”

When the girl was released, she was met with her father’s tight embrace, according to Israeli Defense Forces video.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said: “We can breathe a huge sigh of relief as an innocent child who was missing has been found and returned.”

Thai Prime Minister Sureta Thabisin said the country’s four hostages freed on Saturday were in good health.

“Everyone is happy to be released. Overall mental health remains good,” he said in a social media post.

Israeli prison authorities say recently released Palestinian detainees include 38-year-old Israa Jarvis, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison for detonating a gas cylinder at a checkpoint in 2015. It was announced that there was.

The ceasefire and exchange of hostages and prisoners came as Hamas fighters breached Gaza’s military demarcation line with Israel, kidnapping about 240 people and killing about 1,200 Israelis and foreigners, according to Israeli officials. It was the first significant relief since Oct. 7 for both sides.

According to the Hamas government in Gaza, Israel launched airstrikes, artillery and naval shelling alongside ground attacks to destroy Hamas, killing nearly 15,000 people, most of them civilians, including thousands of children. did.

– Ceasefire extension? –
Egypt announced that it had received positive feedback from both sides on the idea of ​​extending the ceasefire by one to two days and releasing more hostages and prisoners of war.

“This is just the beginning, but so far it’s going well,” US President Joe Biden told reporters on Friday, adding that there was “a real possibility” of extending the ceasefire.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi called for a “permanent ceasefire and a complete end to this aggression.”

However, Israeli military commander Lt. Gen. Helj Halevi said on Saturday that the war to eliminate Hamas would continue.

“After the ceasefire ends, we will immediately return and attack Gaza,” Halevi said.

“We will do this both to dismantle Hamas and to put tremendous pressure on every abductee to return home as soon as possible.”

The latest hostage handover was delayed because Hamas claimed Israel was interfering with the selection of prisoners to be released and not allowing aid to reach civilians in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas later said it softened when Egyptian and Qatari mediators conveyed Israel’s commitment to upholding the agreement.

Israeli officials deny violating ceasefire terms and describe Hamas’ actions as “psychological warfare.”

– West Bank Celebration –
Despite the uproar, Sunday’s release was the third since a four-day ceasefire took effect on Friday.

In two releases already completed, Hamas has released 26 Israeli hostages in exchange for 78 Palestinian prisoners.

The militants also released a total of 14 Thais and one Filipino. Iran’s Foreign Ministry said it had worked with Qatar, the main mediator, to help negotiate the release of the Thais.

Israeli hostages released in the first exchange on Friday have since been reunited with their families in emotional scenes.

Video footage shows a 9-year-old boy, Ota, carrying a stuffed animal around a corner at a hospital near Tel Aviv, seeing his father, breaking into the room and throwing himself into his father’s arms. .

The boy, his mother and grandmother were among those released in the first exchange on Friday.

Fireworks went off in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Friday as crowds filled the streets to welcome the first release of Palestinian prisoners.

“I was just waiting for the day I would be released from prison so I could hug my mother like this,” said Lawan Abu Matar, who served eight years in prison for trying to stab an Israeli soldier.

Hamas is expected to release a total of 50 hostages during the ceasefire period in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners under an agreement brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States.

– Aid trucks enter Gaza –
The cessation of fighting has allowed more aid to reach Palestinians struggling to survive without water and other necessities. Israel has placed Gaza under near-total siege.

A total of 61 trucks delivered food, water and humanitarian aid to northern Gaza through the “humanitarian corridor” on Saturday, according to the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs.

Another 187 trucks loaded with critical supplies were sent individually to aid organizations working in the Gaza Strip, it said.

The United Nations estimates that 1.7 million of Gaza’s population of 2.4 million have been displaced by the fighting.

Thousands of people have returned to their hometowns since the ceasefire.

“We are civilians,” said Mahmoud Masoud, standing in front of a collapsed building in Jabalia, north Gaza. “Why did they destroy our house?”

Israeli forces killed six Palestinians in the occupied West Bank on Saturday, the Palestinian Health Authority said.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said the deaths included four people killed in Israeli shelling in Jenin during an invasion involving a number of armored vehicles.

Source: guardian.ng

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