Hamas releases second group of hostages; four Thai citizens among those freed

The second batch of hostages were released by Palestinian militant group Hamas on Sunday, which saw 13 Israelis and four Thai nationals freed.  The truce deal between Hamas and Israel will see a total of 50 Israeli hostages exchanged for 150 Palestinian prisoners over four days.

Videos from Israel showed hostages leaving Gaza via the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing. They were handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross late on Saturday. 

Of the 13 Israelis released, six were women and seven were children and teenagers. “The released hostages are on their way to hospitals in Israel, where they will reunite with their families,” the Israel Defense  Forces (IDF) said in a statement.  The second group also included four Thai nationals, Thailand’s Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said on social media on Sunday. “Everybody is safe, on the whole in good mental health and are able to speak normally,” he said on social media platform X.

Footages from the West Bank and East Jerusalem also showed crowds welcoming and cheering the arrival of 39 Palestinian security prisoners, who were released in exchange for the hostages. The Israel Prisons Service said it released 39 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. All of the prisoners are either women or minors 18 and under. 

Hundreds of people greeted the International Committee of the Red Cross bus as it arrived in Al Bireh. Crowds chanted “God is great” as the bus arrived, and several young men stood on the roof of the vehicle. Many in the crowd held Hamas flags and chanted pro-Hamas slogans.

However, the truce deal almost derailed earlier on Saturday after Hamas said it was delaying the release of hostages after accusing Israel of not letting aid trucks into northern Gaza. According to Hamas spokesperson Osama Hamdan, 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.” 

PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-PRISONERS

Palestinians prisoners (wearing grey jumpers) cheer among supporters after being released from Israeli jails in exchange for hostages released by Hamas from the Gaza Strip | AFP

The IDF soon clarified that the distribution of aid inside Gaza was implemented by the United Nations and international organisations.

Al-Qassam Brigades, the Hamas armed wing, also said Israel had failed to respect the terms of the Palestinian prisoner releases and that prisoners were not freed based on their time in detention.

However, Qatar and Egypt intervened immediately to ensure the truce did not collapse. The mediation also saw U.S. President Joe Biden calling Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. 

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