TEL AVIV, Israel — On the first day of a 48-hour cease-fire extension in Gaza on Tuesday, Hamas has agreed to free more Israeli hostages in return for dozens of Palestinians held in Israeli jails.
In the final hours of the original four-day truce that was set to expire on Monday, Qatar, Egypt and the U.S. said there had been agreement to prolong the deal at least through Wednesday if each day Hamas releases at least 10 Israeli hostages it seized in last month's attack on Israel. Around 240 captives were taken in the Oct. 7 attack that killed around 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials.
On Monday, there were more scenes of jubilation — both among Palestinian families whose sons and daughters walked out of Israeli jails and Israelis who welcomed home 11 women, children and teenagers after 52 days in captivity. In all, 33 Palestinians prisoners were released after Hamas handed over 11 Israeli hostages.
Among the Palestinians freed on Monday was 16-year-old Nufuth Hammad from Jenin, a city in the north of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Hammad was sentenced just two weeks ago to 12 years in prison for stabbing a neighbor. She had already spent two years in jail awaiting her sentencing.
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Many of the Israelis freed come from a single kibbutz, Nir Oz, that was among those hardest hit in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack. They included two women, two toddlers and four other children and teens, the oldest 18.
Lists of captives to be freed on Tuesday have already been exchanged
Israel said it had approved a list of 50 Palestinian prisoners who are slated for release “should additional Israeli hostages be released,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said in a statement. Israeli media reports that Israel has already received a list of 10 hostages Hamas expects to release on the first day of the extended cease-fire.
Until now, each day's hostages-for-prisoners swap has adhered to a formula of three Palestinians for every Israeli hostage, an arrangement expected to continue in the coming days. So far, 50 Israeli hostages have been released and 19 captives of other nationalities — 17 Thais, a Filipino and a dual Russian-Israeli citizen — have been freed outside the framework of the agreement.
U.N. says three-quarters of Gaza's population displaced by fighting
As significant as the extension of the pause in fighting is for more exchanges of captives, it also allows desperately needed relief aid to reach Gaza, which has been pounded by seven weeks of Israeli airstrikes and a ground offensive aimed at eliminating Hamas. At least 13,300 Palestinians have been killed since the fighting began, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the pause in fighting that went into effect early Friday “was largely maintained” through until Monday.
“It has enabled humanitarian actors, primarily the Egyptian and Palestinian Red Crescent Societies and UN agencies, to enhance the delivery of assistance into and across Gaza,” OCHA said in its latest update on the situation.
It said on Monday that “dozens” of aid trucks from UNRWA, the U.N. relief agency that oversees the Palestinian territories, and the Palestine Red Crescent Society had reached areas in northern Gaza, where much of the fighting has been focused.
“The assistance included medical supplies, ready-to-eat food, wheat flour, bottled water, tents and blankets, which were delivered to four UNRWA shelters and three main warehouses for subsequent distribution,” OCHA said.
The U.N. says three-quarters of Gaza's 2.2 million people have been internally displaced by the conflict.
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