More hostages and prisoners slated for release as Gaza truce holds : NPR

Men carry empty canisters to be filled with cooking gas from a tanker that entered the Palestinian enclave via the Rafah crossing with Egypt, on Saturday.

Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images

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Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images

Men carry empty canisters to be filled with cooking gas from a tanker that entered the Palestinian enclave via the Rafah crossing with Egypt, on Saturday.

Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images

TEL AVIV, Israel — Hamas and Israel on Saturday were planning a second hostages-for-prisoners swap, as a temporary pause in the seven-week-old war in Gaza seemed to be holding.

It wasn’t immediately known how many Israelis Hamas intended to free in the latest exchange, but the Israel Prison Service said it had received a list of jailed Palestinians to be “transported towards the central dispersal point at Ofer prison” at the northern edge of Jerusalem where the previous day’s prisoners were turned over.

In a plaza in central Tel Aviv that has become known as “hostages square,” serving as a gathering place for families and supporters of those held by Hamas, the atmosphere was subdued, but cautiously optimistic about the next release of captives.

On Friday, the first day of the temporary cease-fire, Hamas handed over two dozen hostages, including 13 Israelis who were seized as part its Oct. 7 assault on Israel that killed around 1,200 people, Israel says. In exchange, Israel released 39 Palestinian prisoners.

In a surprise move, Hamas also freed several foreign workers captured in the attacks — 10 Thais and a Filipino.

More than 12,000 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the conflict, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

Among the Israelis who won freedom on Friday is Hanna Katzir, who the Palestinian Islamic Jihad — a militia group that also took part in last month’s attack on Israel — had earlier said was killed in an Israeli airstrike. Other Israelis released are eight members of three separate families, including four young children. Five captives, including Katzir, are in their 70s and the oldest is 85.

Hospitals where the freed hostages were taken have reported that they are in generally good condition. Dr. Efrat Bron-Harlev, the CEO of Schneider Children’s Medical Center, said the four children, three mothers and a grandmother there “are in the best and most caring hands.”

“Their physical condition is good and they are currently undergoing medical and emotional assessment by the medical and psychosocial teams at Schneider Children’s in a specially designated and private area,” Bron-Harlev said.

As Israeli hostages were being freed and reunited with their families on Friday, there were scenes of celebration in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where the Palestinians prisoners were being handed over. An enormous crowd in the heart of Ramallah gathered, chanting pro-Hamas slogans and waved the militant group’s green flag.

The temporary truce was brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States. Under the terms of the deal, Israel and Hamas must halt combat operations while at least 50 Israelis and 150 Palestinian prisoners are exchanged in groups each day. Israel says it could extend the cease-fire up to 10 days if Hamas keeps releasing captives.

Egypt’s state information service on Saturday said that Egyptian officials were working with parties involved in the negotiations “to extend the truce period between the Israeli and Palestinian sides, for a day or so.”

Meanwhile in Gaza, the pause in fighting has opened the door for the besieged Hamas-controlled territory to receive badly needed food, fuel and other supplies after weeks of bombardment from Israeli warplanes and ground forces. Israel has vowed to crush Hamas. The fighting has displaced nearly half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million people, according to UNRWA, the U.N. relief agency overseeing Palestinians.

A spokesperson for Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said Saturday that 200 trucks carrying humanitarian aid entered Gaza from Egypt. It said the trucks were carrying food, water, shelter equipment and medical supplies.

“The United Nations led the deployment of over 50 humanitarian aid trucks to both the northern Gaza Strip and shelters that have not yet been evacuated. This deployment is being carried out with Israeli approval through the evacuation corridor,” COGAT said.

The same number of trucks were dispatched to Gaza on Friday, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

With the temporary cease-fire, some Palestinians are feeling safe enough to visit relatives in central and southern Gaza for the first time since the fighting began. Fuel supplies are scarce so they are using cooking oil to power old cars.

However, last month Israel’s military warned Gazans living in the northern half of the territory, which includes Gaza City’s half-million people, to move to the south or risk being killed during Israeli operations.


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