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Hamas has released 13 Israeli hostages into Egypt, an Israeli official said on Friday, as a truce between the Jewish state and the Palestinian militant group took hold.
The group was due to cross into Israel, the official said. Twelve Thai nationals were also set to be released from Hamas captivity at the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, the chair of Cairo’s state information service said.
News of the ongoing release process followed the start of a four-day halt to hostilities between Israel and Hamas on Friday morning, the first since the Islamist group that runs Gaza triggered the war with a devastating attack on Israel on October 7.
The pause in fighting, brokered by Qatar, set the stage for the staggered release of 50 women and children held by Hamas and 150 Palestinian prisoners in Israel.
Dozens of Thai workers were also seized by the militant group alongside Israelis, dual nationals and others on October 7, with a total of about 240 people taken captive, according to Israeli officials. The release of the Thais had not previously been announced.
In another sign that the tenuous truce agreement was progressing, four tankers of fuel and cooking gas entered besieged Gaza on Friday. This was done “within the framework of the truth and the schedule for the release of the hostages,” the Israeli defense ministry said.
The deal was structured such that both sides must abide by a sequence of events, with Israel allowing aid deliveries, Hamas releasing hostages and Israel in turn releasing prisoners, a person familiar with the situation said. This sequence must be repeated every day for the ceasefire to hold.
The families of women and children held by Hamas who are due to be released on Friday have been informed that their names are on a list for release after 48 days of captivity.
Israel is then expected to release 39 Palestinian women and children held in Israeli prisons — some of whom have yet to be tried or convicted — amounting to a ratio of roughly three Palestinians for each hostage released from Israel.
Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday night that Israel would continue the war after the break was over.
Some 1,200 people were killed in Israel during Hamas’ assault on October 7, Israeli officials have said. Some 13,000 people have died in Israel’s bombardment and ground incursion into Gaza since then, according to officials in the Hamas-controlled strip, while 1.7mn people have been displaced there.
This is a developing story