In a joint effort by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the Shin Bet, 13 abductees, including Israeli citizens, women, and children, were successfully transferred to Israeli territory. An elite unit of the IDF and the Shin Bet escorted the returnees, ensuring their safety and conducting initial medical assessments.
Hamas has released 13 Israeli hostages who were held captive for 49 days in Gaza. The IDF spokesman, Brigadier General Daniel Hagari, confirmed their safe return and assured that they underwent a medical evaluation with no life-threatening concerns.
The released hostages have been transported to the Hatzor base, where they will undergo further medical tests and be reunited with their families. General Hagari cautioned against spreading unverified information, citing a recent incident where false claims were made about one of the hostages, Hana Katzir.
The Red Cross played a crucial role, conducting preliminary examinations and initiating a multi-day operation to reunite hostages and prisoners with their families in Israel and the territories. The operation aims to facilitate the release and transfer of hostages held in Gaza and Palestinian prisoners to the West Bank, alongside additional humanitarian aid deliveries into Gaza.
State President Yitzhak Herzog expressed gratitude to those involved in the abductees' return, emphasizing that the work is not finished until all abductees are safely back in Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Galant closely monitored the operation from the operations room at the Kirya base in Tel Aviv.
Meanwhile, Qatar's Foreign Ministry confirmed the transfer of 24 kidnapped citizens, including 13 Israelis, to the Gaza Strip. Notably, Thai and Filipino citizens were released independently of the agreement between Israel and Hamas.
The international community, including the United States, closely followed the transfer process. The Biden administration views the successful initial step as pivotal for ongoing negotiations and a potential permanent ceasefire.
However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the ambassadors of Spain and Belgium to reprimand talks following critical statements by their prime ministers. The Israeli government strongly condemned accusations of indiscriminate killings in the Gaza Strip, asserting its commitment to international law and the fight against a terrorist organization worse than ISIS.
As celebrations erupted for the released abductees, Minister Benny Gantz joined supporters at the Tel Aviv Museum plaza, expressing determination to continue the efforts until all hostages are returned.
In a surprising development, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi proposed the demilitarization of a future Palestinian state, suggesting temporary security control by international forces, including NATO, UN, American, or Arab forces, until stability is achieved for both nations.
The situation remains fluid as negotiations continue for the release of additional abductees and a potential path toward a lasting peace agreement.
The families of the abductees expressed their joy at the return but emphasized their continued struggle until all abductees are safely reunited with their loved ones. A support event is planned in Tel Aviv to rally public backing for the cause.
The list of 39 prisoners released by Israel as part of the agreement with Hamas includes both male and female detainees from Damon, Megiddo, and Ofer prisons. Minister Benny Gantz acknowledged the mixed emotions in the nation, expressing joy for those rescued and determination to continue the fight for the remaining abductees.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu affirmed the government's commitment to the return of all abductees, labeling it a key goal of the ongoing conflict. The United States President, Joe Biden, lauded the progress in implementing the deal and thanked Qatar, Egypt, and Israel for their roles in the negotiations. He also mentioned the upcoming release of more hostages and stressed the critical need for a ceasefire to facilitate humanitarian aid in Gaza.
The ceasefire, according to Biden, presents an opportunity to break the cycle of violence in the Middle East, criticizing Hamas for its disregard for the well-being of the Palestinian people. When asked about the next hostages to be released, Biden stated that information on the next list would be known in the coming hours. The release of the hostages marks a significant development in the ongoing conflict, raising hopes for further diplomatic resolutions in the region.