Hamas releases 24 captives from Gaza as Israel truce comes into effect

Israel releases 39 Palestinian prisoners in exchange as part of deal that includes a four-day truce in Gaza.

Red Cross vehicle
The ICRC in Israel and the occupied territories said that it transported the group of hostages from Gaza to the Rafah border crossing with Egypt [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

The Palestinian armed group Hamas has released 24 hostages held captive in Gaza for almost seven weeks and Israel has released 39 Palestinian prisoners, hours after an Israel-Hamas truce mediated by Qatar came into effect.

Among the captives released were 13 Israelis, 10 Thai nationals, and one Filipino citizen, Majed al-Ansari, a spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry in Qatar, said on Friday.

The ICRC in Israel and the occupied territories said that it transported the group of captives from Gaza to the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

“We are relieved to confirm the safe release of 24 hostages,” the ICRC wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

The release of the 24 captives — out of the roughly 240 taken hostage by Hamas during an assault on southern Israel on October 7 — comes after a deal between Israel and Hamas, which includes a four-day truce and exchange of captives for Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, took effect.

Buses Ofer prison
A crowd gathered outside Ofer prison in the occupied West Bank to greet released prisoners [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]

The Israeli captaives were back in Israeli territory where they would undergo medical checks before being reunited with their families, the army said.

They included four children and six elderly women, a list issued by the Israeli prime minister’s office showed.

“Our citizens underwent an initial medical examination and their families were informed by the appointed officials that they were back,” it said in a statement.

In a video recording, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that his government is committed to the return of all remaining captives.

Qatar said 39 Palestinian women and children detained in Israeli jails were released as part of the deal. Israel confirmed 39 prisoners had been released.

Qadura Fares, who heads the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club NGO, said 33 prisoners freed in the West Bank were handed to a team from the ICRC. He said the remaining six were being released from a Jerusalem prison.

Israeli forces fired tear gas at a crowd of Palestinians who had gathered for the release of the prisoners outside Ofer prison in the occupied West Bank.

According to the deal mediated by Qatar, Hamas will release 50 women and children, from about 240 people taken captive by the group during its assault on southern Israel on October 7.

In exchange, Israel will release a total of 150 Palestinian women and children held in Israeli prisons, whom Palestinians have long characterised as victims of an Israeli occupation that sweeps them into prisons with little pretence of due process.

The captives taken by Hamas on October 7 include Israeli soldiers and civilians, as well as people from dozens of foreign countries. In both Israel and abroad, the families of those held captive have pleaded for their release.

Qatar’s al-Ansari said that the 10 Thai nationals and Filipino citizen were freed outside the framework of the truce deal.

Earlier on Friday, Thailand’s Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said 12 Thai nationals help in Gaza had been released.

“It has been confirmed by the security side and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that 12 Thai hostages are already released,” he posted on X.

According to Thailand’s foreign ministry, about 30,000 Thais were employed in Israel, primarily in the country’s agricultural sector, at the time of the attack, in which at least 32 Thai workers were killed. Thais seeking work overseas often come to Israel under an arrangement in which they are paid minimum wage of about $2,000 a month.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies