Hamas fighters released 24 hostages on Friday during the first day of the war’s first truce, the Red Cross said, including Israeli women and children and Thai farm workers.
Nine hours after guns fell silent for the first time in seven weeks, the International Red Cross said it had begun an operation to facilitate the transfer of hostages in Gaza to Israel in return for Palestinians held in Israeli jails. It later said 24 hostages had been freed in Gaza.
“The deep pain that family members separated from their loved ones feel is indescribable. We are relieved that some will be reunited after long agony,” said Fabrizio Carboni, the International Committee of the Red Cross’s regional director for the Near and Middle East.
Israeli media reported that 13 women and children had been handed over to the Red Cross and to an Egyptian security team assisting their release. The Israeli government and Hamas did not immediately confirm this.
In addition to the Israeli women and children due to be released on the first day of the four-day truce, Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said in a social media post that a separate group of 12 Thai workers had been freed.
A source briefed on the negotiations said the release of the Thais, who were all men, was unrelated to the truce negotiations and followed a separate track of talks with Hamas mediated by Egypt and Qatar. Thai farmworkers employed in southern Israel were among around 240 hostages dragged back to Gaza by gunmen when Hamas fighters launched a killing spree on Oct. 7.
The source said the number of Thais released could be 11 or 12.
Under the terms of the four-day Israel-Hamas truce, 50 women and children hostages are to be released over four days, in return for 150 Palestinian women and children among thousands of detainees in Israeli jails. Israel says the truce could be extended if more hostages are released at a rate of 10 per day.
The first 13 due to be released on Friday were to be exchanged for 24 Palestinian women and 15 teenagers.
Earlier on Friday, combat between Israeli troops and Hamas fighters halted for the first time in seven weeks under the truce.
No big bombings, artillery strikes or rocket attacks were reported, although Hamas and Israel both accused each other of sporadic shootings and other violations. Both said the war would resume in full throttle as soon as the truce was over.