ISRAEL + HAMAS

Hamas releases Israeli and Thai hostages from Gaza, officials say

Nov 24, 2023, 8:08 AM | Updated: Nov 30, 2023, 5:23 pm

Parents and relatives of children kidnapped on October 7 hold a demonstration in Tel Aviv. (Alexi J...

Parents and relatives of children kidnapped on October 7 hold a demonstration in Tel Aviv. (Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

(Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

(CNN) — A group of Israeli and Thai hostages held by Hamas in Gaza since October 7 has been released, as part of a deal struck between Israel and the militant group, according to officials.

An initial group of 13 Israeli hostages was freed, according to the Israeli prime minister. The Thai prime minister said 12 Thai nationals had also been released.

Israel is due to free 39 Palestinian prisoners in return on Friday.

The Israeli group is the first to be released through a deal between the two sides, brokered in part by Qatar, that was finalized after weeks of tense negotiations and took several agonizing days to come into effect.

The agreement, accompanied by a four-day truce between Hamas and Israel, represents a first major diplomatic breakthrough in the conflict.

The released hostages are expected to enter Egypt through the Rafah crossing before returning to Israeli soil, where they will likely be taken to local hospitals.

The concurrent halt in fighting began at 7 a.m. local time (12 a.m. ET) Friday, and is believed to be holding – the first sustained break in hostilities after nearly seven weeks of conflict.

Pressure on the Israeli government had been mounting for weeks from the families of the hostages, who have demanded answers and action from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

International calls for more humanitarian support for the people of Gaza had also been growing, and the truce is expected to give respite to those in the enclave who have endured weeks of attacks. The number of people killed since October 7 now stands at 14,854, according to information from Hamas authorities in the Strip.

Israel declared war on Hamas following the militant group’s bloody October 7 terror attack on its territory, in which more than 1,200 people were killed – the largest such attack on Israel since the country’s founding in 1948.

Militants were holding more than 200 people captive inside Gaza from mass abductions that day, according to figures from the Israeli military.

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Hamas releases Israeli and Thai hostages from Gaza, officials say