Hamas releases 11 more Israeli hostages as Gaza truce extended
Released Israeli hostages Tal Goldstein Almog, 9, left, and his brother Gal, 11 return to Israel in an IAF helicopter. Photo: AAP
Israel has confirmed that 11 hostages were released by Hamas in the Gaza Strip late Monday local time, as the four-day truce is extended.
In exchange, Qatar says Israel will release 33 Palestinians from its prisons, including three women and 30 teenagers.
Hours earlier, Qatar’s Foreign Ministry said Israel and Hamas agreed to extend their truce for a further two days.
The latest hostage release bring the number freed during the truce to 69, including 50 Israelis and 19 other nationalities.
Qatar said the newly released hostages, all dual citizens, included three with French nationality, two with German nationality and six Argentine citizens.
Some 117 Palestinians have been released from Israeli prisons so far.
An estimated 240 hostages were captured by Hamas in its Oct. 7 terror attack in southern Israel that resulted in around 1200 deaths and ignited the war in Gaza.
Prior to the latest releases, an Israeli spokesperson said the total number of hostages still held in Gaza on Monday was 184, including 14 foreigners and 80 Israelis with dual nationality.
One hostage was freed by Israeli defence forces, while two were found dead in Gaza.
Each day since the four-day truce began on Friday, Hamas has released some of the hostages while Israel has freed some of the Palestinians it holds.
Israel previously said it would extend the truce by one day for every 10 more hostages released, providing some respite to Palestinians in the Mediterranean seaside strip from the war, which has killed thousands of people and laid waste to the enclave.
“An agreement has been reached to extend the humanitarian pause for an additional two days in the Gaza Strip,” a Qatari foreign ministry spokesperson said on X (formerly Twitter). Hamas also said it had agreed a two-day extension.
There was no immediate comment from Israel, but a White House official confirmed agreement had been reached.
US President Joe Biden thanked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as Qatar and Egypt – who have facilitated indirect talks between the two sides – for a pact that would free more hostages and allow more aid into Gaza.
The truce agreed last week was the first halt in fighting in the seven weeks since the October 7 Hamas attack.
In response to that attack, Israel has bombarded the enclave and mounted a ground offensive in the north. More than 15,000 Palestinians have been killed, Gaza’s Hamas-run government says, and hundreds of thousands displaced.
Wide areas of the enclave have been flattened by Israeli airstrikes and artillery bombardments, and a humanitarian crisis has unfolded as supplies of food, fuel, drinking water and medicine run out.
Netanyahu said at the weekend that once the truce ended: “We will return with full force to achieve our goals: the elimination of Hamas; ensuring that Gaza does not return to what it was; and of course the release of all our hostages.”
The truce agreement also allowed for aid trucks to enter Gaza.
Palestinians in Gaza had earlier said they were praying for an extension of the truce. Some were visiting homes reduced to rubble by weeks of intensive Israeli bombardment, while others queued for flour and other essential aid being delivered by the United Nations relief agency UNRWA.