More hostages arrive in Israel after Hamas release

The 13 Israeli and four Thai hostages released from Hamas captivity in Gaza have arrived in Israel, the Israeli military (IDF) said on Saturday.

“After undergoing an initial medical assessment, they will continue to be accompanied by IDF soldiers as they make their way to Israeli hospitals, where they will be reunited with their families,” it said.

Aid row resolved

Earlier that day, there were fears the hostage deal could be derailed amid a row over aid supplies to the north of Gaza, but this was resolved following mediation by Qatar and Egypt.

A Palestinian official familiar with the diplomacy said Hamas would continue with the four-day truce agreed with Israel, the first break in fighting in seven weeks of war.

An injured Palestinian girl lies on a donkey cart after travelling to the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday. Source: AAP / Mohammed Saber/EPA

The armed wing of Hamas had earlier said it was delaying Saturday’s scheduled second round of hostage releases until Israel met all truce conditions, including committing to let aid trucks into northern Gaza.

Hamas spokesperson Osama Hamdan said only 65 of 340 aid trucks that had entered Gaza since Friday had reached northern Gaza, which was “less than half of what Israel agreed on.”

Al-Qassam Brigades also said Israel had failed to respect the terms of the Palestinian prisoner releases. Qadura Fares, the Palestinian commissioner for prisoners, said Israel had not released detainees by seniority, as was expected.


Trucks carrying humanitarian aid wait to cross from the southern Gaza Strip into the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday. Source: AAP / Mohammed Saber/EPA

Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter, a member of Israel’s security cabinet, told Channel 13 News that Israel was “abiding by the deal” with Hamas that Qatar had mediated.

Israel has said 50 trucks with had deployed to northern Gaza under UN supervision, the first significant aid delivery there since the start of the war.

Some 39 Palestinian women and teenagers were released from Israeli jails. Israeli army spokesperson Olivier Rafowicz told French television Israel was strictly honouring the terms of the truce, and said the military had carried out no attacks or offensive operations in Gaza on Saturday.

Has the truce been extended?

The Israeli army spokesman said earlier Israel had been expecting another 13 hostages to be set free on Saturday, with 39 Palestinian prisoners also to be released – barring last-minute changes.
A total of 50 hostages are to be exchanged for 150 Palestinian prisoners over four days under the truce, the first halt in fighting since Hamas fighters rampaged through southern Israel on 7 October, killing 1,200 people and taking about 240 hostages.
In response to that attack, Israel has vowed to destroy the Hamas militants who run Gaza, raining bombs and shells on the enclave and launching a ground offensive in the north.

To date, some 14,800 people, roughly 40 per cent of them children, have been killed, Palestinian health authorities said on Saturday.


Palestinians walk after crossing from the northern Gaza Strip to the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday. Source: AAP / Mohammed Saber/EPA

Before the delay to the latest hostage and prisoner exchange, Egypt, which controls the Rafah border crossing through which aid supplies have resumed into southern Gaza, said it had received “positive signals” from all parties over a possible truce extension.

Diaa Rashwan, the head of Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS), said in a statement that Cairo was holding extensive talks with all parties to reach an agreement which would mean “the release of more detainees in Gaza and Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.”

Israel has said the ceasefire could be extended if Hamas continues to release hostages at a rate of at least 10 per day. A Palestinian source has said up to 100 hostages could go free.

The significant escalation is the latest in a long-standing conflict between Hamas and Israel.
Hamas is a Palestinian military and political group that has gained power in the Gaza Strip since winning legislative elections there in 2006.
Its stated aim is to establish a Palestinian state, while refusing to recognise Israel’s right to exist.
Hamas, in its entirety, is designated as a terrorist organisation by countries including Australia, Canada, the UK and the US while New Zealand and Paraguay list only its military wing as a terrorist group.

Other countries voted against a UN resolution condemning Hamas in its entirety, as a terrorist organisation.

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