Large crowds of Palestinians took to the streets in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on Sunday night as they waited for Red Cross buses carrying the prisoners.
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Some waved Palestinian flags alongside the flags of the two main Palestinian political parties, Hamas and Fatah. Some youth climbed on top of a white bus transporting mostly young men and some female prisoners.
“At first we did not believe it,” Shakir Mahajna told Al Jazeera while he waited with his family for his son Omar, who recently turned 18.
“The last time I visited him he was frustrated, he told me ‘Dad I want to leave’,” said Mahajna, whose son was 16 when he was arrested and had four months left in his sentence.
“After what happened in October, I was even more scared,” Nour Ara’ar, whose 17-year-old brother Zeid was arrested in July, told Al Jazeera.
“Everything was suspended because of the war,” she added. “The trial did not take place.”
“We are happy, but we are experiencing mixed feelings. Our joy is incomplete because of what is happening in Gaza,” she added.
Meanwhile, in nearby Beitunia, where some Palestinians had also gathered, three Palestinians aged 15, 18 and 33 were injured after Israeli forces fired live rounds, the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said. Two children, aged 11 and 13, were admitted to a hospital for tear-gas inhalation, the PRCS added.
Hamas frees American child, Russian man
Earlier on Sunday, Hamas handed over 13 Israeli captives, including nine children and four foreign nationals – three Thais and one Israeli Russian – to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as part of the truce deal.
The Israeli Russian was released “in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts and in recognition of Russia’s position in support of Palestine”, Hamas said in a statement. He is the first male captive to be released since the truce deal came into effect.
US President Joe Biden said a four-year-old Israeli-American girl, Abigail Edan, whose parents were killed in the October 7 Hamas attack, was also among those released.
“She’s free and she’s in Israel,” he said, adding that another dual American citizen – a 45-year-old woman – was also released. Biden also urged the parties to extend the truce deal to allow for more releases.
The exchange of captives was delayed by a few hours on Saturday after Hamas accused Israel of violating the truce agreement. The standoff sparked concerns that the deal was at risk of derailing.
The impasse was resolved following mediation by Qatar and Egypt.
Around 150 Palestinian prisoners and 50 civilian captives held in Gaza are to be released over four days under the Israel-Hamas deal.
Israel’s ground and air assault on the besieged Gaza Strip has so far killed more than 15,000 Palestinians and left vast swathes of the enclave in ruins.
Netanyahu’s ‘photo-op’ in Gaza
Ahead of Sunday’s exchange, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Gaza, the first since the Gaza assault began last month.
“We continue until the end – until victory,” he told soldiers, footage posted online by his office showed.
“Nothing will stop us, and we are convinced that we have the power, the strength, the will and the determination to achieve all the war’s goals, and we will.”
Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, said it was the first time an Israeli prime minister entered Gaza since Israel disengaged from the enclave in 2005.
“It is a landmark visit,” he said. “We’ve heard Netanyahu talk about victory but not in this location. This location is what he wants the Israeli public to see,” he added, calling it a “photo-op”.
In a statement on Sunday, Hamas said it is seeking to extend the four-day truce with Israel should serious efforts be made to increase the number of Palestinian detainees released from Israeli prisons.
Speaking from Beirut, senior Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan told Al Jazeera he expected US President Biden to push Israel to end its war on the Gaza Strip.
“President Biden has the ability to make an end to the Israeli offensive against Gaza. He has the power to do that and talking about extending the ceasefire is not the solution.
“The solution is to stop the Israeli attack against Gaza and to force Israel to implement international resolutions regarding the Palestinian people,” he said.