Hamas fighters set to free more hostages after joyous reunion

Hamas fighters set to free more hostages after joyous 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.

Families cheered the return of hostages, including a nine-year-old Israeli-Irish girl, and crowds cheered as Palestinian prisoners of war were released from a West Bank prison.

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 the 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 sequentially released 39 Palestinian prisoners under a ceasefire agreement brokered by Qatar, Egypt, and the United States.

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

– Excitement, pain –
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, in response, Israel launched airstrikes, artillery and naval fire in parallel with ground attacks to destroy Hamas, killing 15,000 people, most of them civilians, including thousands of children. Nearby people died.

Among the hostages freed late Saturday was 21-year-old Maya Regev, who was kidnapped along with her 18-year-old brother Itai by Hamas fighters in a deadly attack on the Supernova music festival.

“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.

A video released by the Israel Defense Forces shows Emily Hand, a 9-year-old freed Israeli-Irish woman, being held tightly by her father as she is released.

“While we are overjoyed to be able to hug Emily again, we also remember… all of the hundreds of hostages who have yet to return,” her family said in a statement released via a forum.

Among the group of recently released Palestinians was Israa Jarvis, 38, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison for detonating a gas cylinder at a checkpoint in 2015.

Wearing a wreath of yellow flowers, Javis returned home and hugged relatives at her home.

“Oh, that helps. My pain is visible, so I don’t need to talk about it,” she said, part of her face disfigured by burns.

“I also feel the pain on an emotional level and miss my relatives. But this is a tax that prisoners pay.”

Young prisoners released from Ofer prison in the West Bank hugged relatives and were carried on their shoulders as they entered a crowd waving the green flag of Hamas’s Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades.

“May God protect the resistance in Gaza, have mercy on the martyrs, and heal the wounded. Long live the resistance and all those who supported it,” said a released prisoner. Wael Bilal Masih said.

AFPTV video showed Israeli forces firing tear gas to disperse Palestinians gathered near the prison awaiting the release of prisoners, and paramedics carrying one injured person on a stretcher. .

– 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.

US President Joe Biden told reporters on Friday 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 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 postponed on Saturday after Hamas said Israel was interfering with the selection of prisoners to be released and not allowing aid to northern Gaza.

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.”

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.

Hamas is expected to release a total of 50 hostages in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners during the ceasefire.

– Aid trucks enter Gaza –
The cessation of fighting has allowed more aid to reach Palestinians struggling to survive due to lack of water and other necessities. Israel has placed Gaza under near-total siege.

A total of 61 trucks delivered food, water and medical supplies to northern Gaza on Saturday, according to the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs.

Another 187 trucks loaded with vital supplies destined for aid groups also entered the Gaza Strip.

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 remaining homes through piles of rubble under the armistice agreement.

“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 eight Palestinians in the occupied West Bank in 24 hours, the Palestinian Health Authority said Sunday.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said the deaths included five people killed by Israeli shelling during a multi-armored invasion in Jenin.

Source: guardian.ng

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