Twenty-four hostages were released from Gaza and 39 Palestinian prisoners were released from Israeli jails amid a four-day cease-fire, causing jubilation in the West Bank and hope in Israel.
Raucous crowds packed West Bank streets to celebrate the release of Palestinians under an agreement expected to result in the release of 50 hostages held by Hamas militants in Gaza.
Among those released by militants were 13 Israelis, 10 Thais and one Filipino, a Qatari official said.
The office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it has received a list of hostages to be released tomorrow and has been in touch with their loved ones.
Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson Daniel Hagari said the releases brought a “great sense of relief.”
Speaking during a national address, U.S. President Joe Biden said, “It’s only a start, but so far it’s gone well.”
Hagari later issued more sober remarks during a video address in which he reminded Israelis and supporters of the state that many more hostages needed to be released — an estimated 240 were being held before the releases began — and Hamas needed to be eradicated.
“Today the world watched and breathed a collective sigh of relief,” he said. But he added, “But we must never lose sight of … babies who were not reunited with their loved ones, who are still being held by Hamas.”
The IDF warned Gaza residents who moved south not to return to the war-torn north amid the cease-fire, indicating that more bloody warfare was likely when the cease-fire ends.
More than 1.7 million people have been displaced in Gaza, and the death toll has surpassed 14,500, health officials in Gaza have said.
Hagari said it’s not over yet.
Fighting must resume in order to secure the freedom of all the hostages, put an end to enemy Hamas and its threat to Israel’s existence and ensure that Oct. 7 happens “never again,” he said.
What we know
- Twenty-four hostages were released from the Gaza Strip today as a pause in fighting that began this morning continues to hold. Thirteen Israelis were freed as part of the deal with Hamas, which also saw 39 Palestinian prisoners released from Israeli jails and aid flow into Gaza. A number of Thai captives were separately released by Hamas.
- The breakthrough follows weeks of “excruciating” negotiations brokered by the U.S., Qatar and Egypt for a deal featuring a four-day truce, with at least 50 hostages expected to be freed from Gaza and 150 Palestinians from Israel. A last-minute delay saw Israel bombard sites across the Gaza Strip yesterday.
- The Israeli military has urged civilians who fled to southern Gaza not to return home during the pause, warning “the war is not over yet” in leaflets dropped this morning. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said battles would continue “forcefully” after the truce, and that he expects at least two more months of fighting.
- Fuel trucks and convoys carrying humanitarian aid have entered the besieged Palestinian enclave this morning amid the truce, offering the hope of some relief for civilians who have been suffering for weeks as supplies of food, water and medicine ran low.
- More than 1.7 million people have been displaced in Gaza, where health officials say the death toll has surpassed 14,500 after weeks of Israeli attacks. The Israel Defense Forces estimate 1,200 people were killed in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, with more than 200 people held hostage in Gaza.
- NBC News’ Keir Simmons, Raf Sanchez, Ali Arouzi, Erin McLaughlin and David Noriega are reporting from the region.