Israel releases 30 prisoners after Hamas frees 12 hostages as mediators seek lasting truce - GulfToday

Israel releases 30 prisoners after Hamas frees 12 hostages as mediators seek lasting truce


Released Palestinian prisoner Lamees Abu Arkoob reacts as her family receives her outside her house. Reuters

The latest swap of Hamas-held hostages for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel took place on Tuesday evening as part of a cease-fire agreement between the warring sides.

Ten Israeli hostages — nine women and a 17-year-old girl — and two Thais were handed over to the Red Cross in Gaza and were back in Israeli territory, the military said. About an hour later, Israel released 30 Palestinian prisoners.

Israel and Hamas have agreed to extend their cease-fire until Wednesday, raising the prospect of further exchanges. Since Friday, Hamas has released 81 hostages, mostly Israeli nationals, while Israel has freed 180 Palestinian prisoners.

An extended cease-fire would allow more aid into Gaza, which has been battered by weeks of Israeli siege and bombardment that has driven three out of every four people in Gaza from their homes. The territory is home to 2.3 million people.

Ahmad Salaima, a 14-year-old Palestinian, embraces his father as his mother (left) looks on at his home. AFP

 The final 24 hours of the extended agreement begins later Wednesday, with one more exchange of hostages for prisoners expected, but mediator Qatar said it was hoping for a more durable arrangement.

"Our main focus right now, and our hope, is to reach a sustainable truce that will lead to further negotiations and eventually to an end... to this war," foreign ministry spokesman Majed Al Ansari told a Doha news conference.

"However, we are working with what we have. And what we have right now is the provision to the agreement that allows us to extend days as long as Hamas is able to guarantee the release of at least 10 hostages."

That provision has allowed the two-day extension that saw 10 Israeli hostages released from Gaza overnight Tuesday, along with two Thais freed outside the scope of the agreement.

A mini-bus carrying Israeli hostages released by Hamas arrives at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel. AP

Israel says it remains committed to crushing Hamas’ military capabilities and ending the group's 16-year rule over Gaza. That would likely mean expanding a ground offensive from devastated northern Gaza into the south.

Roughly 240 hostages were captured by Hamas in its Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel that ignited the war. More than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed since the war began, according to the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry in Gaza. About 1,200 people have been killed in Israel, mostly during the initial incursion by Hamas.


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