The first 13 Israeli hostages, women and children, are free after almost 50 days spent in terrorist tunnels in Gaza. Together with them, eleven foreigners were also released by Hamas, while Israel released 39 Palestinians. The truce, as scheduled, began this morning at 7am (6am in Italy) to allow the exchange of prisoners. The operation will be repeated until Monday included to arrive at the final figure of 50 hostages in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners who have not been guilty of murder, according to the condition placed by Israel on the Islamic faction.
It is not excluded that the ceasefire will go beyond the 4 days already agreed and that it will lead to the release of 100 Israeli captives in exchange for 300 Palestinians. At 4pm sharp the operations for the exchange began, preceded by a long preparation which – on the Gaza side, where around 80 Palestinians and 137 trucks of humanitarian aid returned from Egypt – involved the Red Cross. Hamas handed over the hostages to the international organization: 9 women (mostly elderly), 3 girls and a boy, all from the Nir Oz kibbutz, one of the most affected by the militia raids.
In that settlement, 75 people were kidnapped, including 13 children. The list of those released includes Doron Katz Asher (34 years old), Aviv Asher (2), Raz Asher (4), Daneil Alloni (45), Emilia Alloni (6), Keren Monder (54), Ohad Monder (9), Ruthi Monder (78), Yaffa Aadar (85), Margalit Moses (77), Hanna Katzir (77), Adina Moshe (72) and Hanna Perri (79). In this first list there is not the name of Avigail Idan, the 4-year-old girl (turned today) with dual Israeli-American citizenship whose parents were killed on October 7 and whose release Washington has strongly hoped for. The handover to the Red Cross by the Islamic faction took place in Khan Yunis, in the south of the Strip, and it is there that the Israelis received an initial medical examination where no particular problems were found.
From Khan Yunis the convoy headed towards the Rafah crossing, through which it passed into Egyptian territory. There the now former hostages were taken over by Israeli forces – starting with the Shin Bet, which verified their identity and physical conditions – and then returned to Israeli territory through the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing, as shown in a video released by army, to be taken to the military base of Hatzarim, in the Negev. Helicopters equipped with special headphones for the little ones to muffle the noise finally took them to the designated hospitals, where they finally hugged their families again.
According to initial information, the conditions of the abductees are good. The Israelis were not the only hostages to be freed by Hamas. Together with them – thanks to Egyptian mediation in a separate agreement – 10 Thais and a Filipino were also released and will be cared for in Israel. «We have completed the return of the first of our hostages. We are committed to bringing everyone home, the war continues”, commented Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the evening.
At the same time as the release of the hostages, Israel freed, as agreed, the first 39 Palestinians. These are 24 women and 15 minors who left the military prison of Ofer, in the West Bank, aboard two Red Cross buses, headed towards two locations: the Bitunya checkpoint (Ramallah), where the residents were released in the West Bank; and the Central Command of the Jerusalem Police, for those who live in the eastern part of the city.
Meanwhile, in Gaza some displaced Palestinians in the south attempted to return to the north, contrary to the provisions of the agreement between the parties. The army had warned against undertaking the journey both with leaflets in Arabic and with posts on social media: in an attempt to cross anyway, two Palestinians were killed and 15 others wounded by Israeli fire.