Israel Palestine Conflict

Hamas frees 12 hostages in exchange for release of 30 Palestinian prisoners in Israel

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Twelve hostages released from captivity in the Gaza Strip -- 10 Israelis and two foreigners -- arrived Tuesday in Israel, the army said.

“The released hostages are... inside Israeli territory,” said the army in a statement on the fifth day of a pause in fighting in the Gaza Strip, adding that it “salutes and embraces the released hostages upon their return home.”

The hostages released from Gaza consist of 12 people, including 10 Israelis, a minor and nine women, Majed Al Ansari, the Qatar foreign ministry spokesman posted on messaging platform X.

In addition to two Thai foreign nationals, Ansari specified that the Israeli female hostages being released consist of dual nationals: two Argentinians, an Austrian, and a Filipina.

In return, the Israel Prison Service said it released 30 Palestinians from Israeli jails late on Tuesday.

In a statement, the prison service said the 30 Palestinians were released from Ofer Prison, near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, and from a detention center in Jerusalem.

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The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Tuesday it had completed the release of 11 Palestinian detainees from Israeli detention centers and has transferred them to Ramallah.

The number announced by the ICRC typically includes only those who the organization was directly responsible for releasing.

The neutral, Swiss-based organization is tasked with the release of Gaza-based hostages and Palestinians in Israeli detention centers under the terms of a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas.

The Al Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, said on its Telegram account on Tuesday it handed over ‘some civilian detainees’ as part of an exchange deal with Israel.

Hamas had released 50 Israeli hostages as of Monday night as well as 19 foreigners, mostly Thai farmworkers. Israel has so far released 150 prisoners prior to Tuesday’s moves.

The hostages were among some 240 people seized by Hamas gunmen during a rampage into southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which they killed 1,200 people.

The truce has brought Gaza its first respite after seven weeks of intensive Israeli bombardment prompted by the Hamas attack.

The truce had been due to expire overnight into Tuesday but both sides agreed to extend the pause to allow for the release of more hostages held by Hamas and of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Gaza health authorities say more than 15,000 people have been confirmed killed in Israel’s bombardment of the territory, around 40 percent of them children, with many more dead feared to be lost under rubble.

Israel has said the truce could be prolonged further, provided Hamas continues to free at least 10 Israeli hostages per day. But with fewer women and children still in captivity, keeping the guns quiet beyond Wednesday may require negotiating to free at least some Israeli men for the first time.

On Tuesday, Israeli forces and Hamas fighters largely held their fire and both sides expressed their hope for further extensions of the pause in fighting that has reduced much of the Gaza Strip to a desolate moonscape.

More than two-thirds of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have lost their homes, with thousands of families sleeping rough in makeshift shelters with only the belongings they could carry.

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