Conflicts & War

Hamas frees 13 Israeli, 12 Thai hostages as ceasefire exchange begins

Jerusalem, Nov 24 (EFE).- The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas handed over 13 Israeli and 12 Thai hostages to aid workers from the International Committee of the Red Cross on Friday, officials said.

The Israeli army radio, citing government sources, confirmed the release of the Israeli hostages.

They left through the Rafah crossing as the freedom of hostages sets in motion a broader agreement that includes the release of 50 Israelis in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners during a four-day ceasefire in Gaza.

The release of the 12 Thai hostages is not part of the Israel-Hamas agreement but resulted from separate negotiations between Thailand and the Palestinian Islamist group.

Thailand Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin confirmed the release of the 12 Thai hostages through a social media platform.

“Their names and details should be known soon,” Thavisin wrote on social media platform X, formerly called Twitter.

Since the beginning of the conflict between Israel and Hamas on Oct. 7, Thailand pursued various avenues to secure the release of its hostages, involving diplomatic efforts and negotiations, including a trip led by diplomats to Egypt and Qatar and meetings in Iran with members of the Palestinian militant group.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant oversaw the release of the Israeli hostages at the Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv.

“The prime minister and the defense minister will closely monitor the management of the operation to bring the Israelis who have been released from Hamas captivity back to the country,” the government said in a statement.

The first 13 Israeli hostages are being exchanged for 39 Palestinian prisoners, who are currently in the Israeli prison of Ofer, set to be free after Israel confirms the identity of the released Israelis.

The freed captives from both sides are women and children. In the case of the freed Palestinian prisoners, there were 24 women and 15 teenage boys.

Government officials in Egypt, one of the countries that mediated the agreement, said the Egyptian authorities were “now preparing” at the Rafah crossing to receive those released by Hamas “in preparation for their transfer to the Israeli side.”

In total, 50 Israeli hostages will be released in exchange for the release of 150 Palestinians during the four days of the truce, which may be extended up to 10 days if Hamas hands over more captives, according to Israel.

The Israeli army said it was ready to bring back the kidnapped people, who will return to Israel in four military helicopters.

On Oct. 7, Hamas militants went on a rampage in Israel, killed more than 1,200 people, and kidnapped 240.

In retaliation, Israel launched an unprecedented military offensive against Hamas that has claimed more than 14,500 lives in Gaza, including more than 5,500 children. EFE

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