A new group of hostages held in Gaza, 10 Israelis and two foreigners, were released on Tuesday in exchange for the release of 30 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, after the truce concluded between Palestinian Hamas and the army was extended for 48 hours Israeli.
Several Israeli hostages, accompanied by masked Palestinian fighters from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian armed group, were handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Rafah, in the south of the Palestinian territory, near the Egyptian border, according to an AFP photographer on site.
The twelve released hostages, ten Israelis and two Thais according to Israel and Qatar, will be “taken to Israeli hospitals where they will be reunited with their families,” said the Israeli army, which confirmed their arrival in Israel via Egypt.
In exchange, 30 Palestinian prisoners, all women and young people under the age of 19, were released, the Israeli prison authority announced.
Entering into force on November 24, the truce in the war between Israel and Hamas was extended until 5 a.m. GMT Thursday (midnight in Quebec). In total, 20 Israeli hostages and 60 Palestinian prisoners must be released during this extension, according to Qatar, the main mediator in the negotiations on the hostage file.
Every day since the truce came into force on Friday, Hamas has released around ten women and children kidnapped during its bloody attack on October 7 in Israel, in exchange for the release of three times as many Palestinian prisoners.
The truce agreement, negotiated with the support also of Egypt and the United States, has already enabled the release of 60 Israeli hostages and 180 Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli prisons.
Twenty-one foreign hostages, mostly Thais living in Israel, were released outside the framework of this agreement.
Israeli authorities estimated at around 240 the number of people kidnapped and taken to Gaza on October 7, during the unprecedented attack by the Palestinian Islamist movement, which cost the lives of 1,200 people in Israel, the vast majority civilians.
In retaliation, Israel promised to “annihilate” Hamas, which carried out its attack from the Gaza Strip, relentlessly bombing the Palestinian territory and launching a ground offensive on October 27.
According to the Hamas government, 14,854 people, including 6,150 under the age of 18, were killed in Israeli strikes.
“The resistance is united”
On the fifth day of the truce, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remains under very strong pressure from public opinion, traumatized by the attack by Hamas, classified as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Israel.
On Tuesday, in Tel Aviv, demonstrators, brandishing his portrait, demanded the release of a 10-month-old infant, Kfir, captured in Kibbutz Nir Oz on October 7 with his brother Ariel (four years old) and his parents. , Yarden and Shiri.
The oldest hostage to have been kidnapped on the same day, Yaffa Adar, 85, left on Tuesday, with her walker and under a guard of honor, the Israeli hospital where she had been transferred after her release from captivity on November 24 .
“We will release all the hostages,” Mr. Netanyahu said on Tuesday, promising again to “destroy” Hamas.
“The Israeli army is ready to resume fighting. We take advantage of the break days to […] strengthen our preparation and approve future operations plans,” said Israeli Chief of Staff General Herzi Halevi.
For their part, Hamas and Islamic Jihad wanted to show their unity. Before jointly freeing the 12 hostages on Tuesday evening, the armed wings of the two movements, the Ezzedine al-Qassam brigades of Hamas and the al-Quds brigades of Islamic Jihad, organized military parades.
“We have shown that the resistance stands united,” said Mossaab al-Barim, spokesperson for Islamic Jihad, to AFP in Khan Younes, in the south of the Gaza Strip, after the handover of the hostages.
“We are determined to continue the fight,” he added.
In East Jerusalem, occupied and annexed by Israel, Ahmed Salaima, a 14-year-old former Palestinian detainee, was reunited with his family on Tuesday evening, according to AFP images. He is the youngest Palestinian prisoner to have been released since the truce took effect.
At the same time in Beitunia, in the occupied West Bank, other freed prisoners were greeted with jubilation, greeted by crowds waving flags of Hamas and other Palestinian movements.
“I’m very happy, I feel like I’m in a movie. The prisoners have arrived, God is great,” rejoiced Mohammed, a 17-year-old teenager.
Discussions to extend the truce
Behind the scenes, mediators are working to extend the truce beyond Thursday and the American Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, is expected back in Israel and the West Bank this week.
The heads of the American and Israeli intelligence services are in Doha.
The extension of the truce also allowed the entry of new humanitarian aid trucks into the Gaza Strip, besieged and bombarded for seven weeks by the Israeli army.
Despite the arrival since November 24 of hundreds of trucks in the small territory, the situation remains “catastrophic”, judged the World Food Program (WFP), estimating that “there is a risk of famine” in Gaza.
Already subject to an Israeli land, sea and air blockade since 2007, the overpopulated territory was placed under total siege by Israel on October 9, and has since suffered serious shortages of water, food, fuel and medicine. and electricity.
In addition, some 1.7 million of the Gaza Strip’s 2.4 million people have been displaced by the war, fleeing the territory’s north to the south.
” She disappeared “
More than half of homes have been damaged or destroyed in the Gaza Strip, according to the UN.
Thousands of Palestinians, displaced in the south of the Gaza Strip, took advantage of the truce to return to their homes in the North, the most devastated region, ignoring the ban by the Israeli army which took control of several sectors.
“I’m trying to find memories of my house,” says a Palestinian from al-Zahra, pointing to the mountains of rubble where his house stood, destroyed by Israeli strikes.
“Al-Zahra was the most beautiful city in the world […] and now it has disappeared,” said Zein Ashour, a young woman who also lived in this now razed neighborhood.
In the West Bank, a Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967 where tensions are high, two Palestinian teenagers were killed by the Israeli army during clashes, according to the Palestinian Authority.
Since October 7, more than 230 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers or settlers in the West Bank, according to the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry.