First groups of Israelis and Palestinians have been released Under a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, fighting in Gaza has temporarily stopped after weeks of conflict, officials said.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed 13 Israeli hostages They had returned to Israel on Friday, where they are undergoing initial medical evaluations.
Qatar’s foreign ministry helped broker the deal, confirming that Palestinian prisoners freed as part of the deal were on their way to the West Bank.
The Red Cross said 24 of the hostages had been freed after transporting prisoners from Gaza to Egypt’s Rafah border on Friday.
Ten Thai nationals and one Filipino national have been released under separate agreements.
Among the freed Israelis were 5-year-olds Emilia Aloni and Adina Moshe. found Kidnapped from his kibbutz during the October 7 Hamas attacks and driven away on a motorcycle.
“They are now going to hospitals, where they will be reunited with their families — or, should I say, what’s left of their families,” Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy told CNN. “Many of them, of course, their families were killed on October 7.”
IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari said the 11 foreigners who were freed returned to Israel along with the Israeli hostages who were freed Friday night. “All of them underwent initial medical evaluation at the Kerem Shalom crossing and their lives are not in danger,” he told a briefing.
Levy said the initial release left 215 hostages still inside Gaza. “We are not free until all of us here are free. We remain committed to that commitment: no one will back down,” he said.
Israel also released 39 Palestinian prisoners on Friday. Buses carrying some of the freed Palestinian women and youths were seen leaving the Ofer prison in the occupied West Bank.
The Red Cross later confirmed that a group breaking out of Ofer prison had arrived in Ramallah.
Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images
Israeli security forces and ambulances wait outside the helipad of Tel Aviv’s Schneider Medical Center on Friday.
The hostages and Palestinians freed on Friday were the first to be released under a deal between the two sides, which was finalized after weeks of tense negotiations and took several agonizing days to come into effect.
The agreement, along with a four-day ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, represents the first major diplomatic breakthrough in the conflict.
The freed hostages entered Egypt via the Rafah crossing before returning to Israeli soil, where they were taken to local hospitals.
A simultaneous ceasefire in fighting began at 7 a.m. local time Friday (12 a.m. ET) and is believed to be in place — the first lasting break in hostilities after nearly seven weeks of conflict.
It allowed relief to flow into the besieged Gaza Strip, bringing some respite to the worsening humanitarian crisis. The United Nations said Friday that 137 humanitarian supplies were loaded into Gaza on the first day of a ceasefire, marking the largest aid convoy since Oct. 7.
“During the ongoing humanitarian pause since this morning, the UN has been able to increase the delivery of humanitarian assistance in and across Gaza,” said a statement from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
On Friday, 129,000 liters of fuel and four truckloads of gas were delivered to Gaza, OCHA said.
OCHA added, “21 critical patients were evacuated from northern Gaza in a large-scale medical operation.” It is not clear where those patients were taken.
Although the first batch of Israeli hostages was released on Friday, more – a total of 50 women and children – are expected to be exchanged during the ceasefire.
President Joe Biden spoke to reporters on Friday It called the release of the hostages a positive start and sounded an optimistic note about the possible release of the Americans in the coming days.
Biden said he would soon have the names of the hostages to be released on Saturday, adding, “Hopefully it will be as we expected.” He said he did not know when the three Americans, including the now four-year-old Abigail Eden, who would be released in the women’s or children’s category, would be released, but confirmed that he still “expects that to happen.”
“My hope and expectation is that it will be soon,” he said of the possible release of the three Americans.
Pressure on the Israeli government had been mounting for weeks from the families of the hostages, who demanded answers and action from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
International calls for humanitarian aid to Gazans are also growing, and the ceasefire is expected to bring respite to those in the enclave who have endured weeks of attacks. According to Hamas officials, the death toll since October 7 now stands at 14,854.
Hundreds of people gathered outside Tel Aviv’s art museum – in an area nicknamed “Hostage Square” among locals – ahead of the announcement, anxiously awaiting confirmation of the hostages’ safe transfer.
Tamar Shamir said she has been visiting the square for weeks to show support for the hostages and their families. He said that while the confirmation of the transfer came as a relief, more must be done to return all hostages held by Hamas.
“We are not happy. We cannot be happy until everyone returns home,” Shamir told CNN.
Meanwhile, residents of Gaza began moving into parts of the Bank after a cease-fire began on Friday, although some displaced Palestinians tried to return home. Northern Gaza It was allegedly blocked by Israeli forces, a journalist told CNN.
ITF Alerted residents As opposed to trying to travel from the south to the north, where the war between Hamas and Israel is concentrated.
Social media videos showed people running on Salah al-Din Street amid gunfire believed to be Israeli. A journalist told CNN that Israeli tanks were seen on Salah al-Din Street and gunfire was heard.
CNN has reached out to the IDF for comment on whether it opened fire on those trying to enter the north.
Israel declared war on Hamas following the militant group’s bloody October 7 terror attack that killed more than 1,200 people – the biggest attack on Israel since its founding in 1948.
According to Israeli military figures, militants captured more than 200 people from kidnappings inside Gaza that day.
This story has been updated with additional updates.
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