| 27 February 2024, Tuesday |

Thailand says 12 hostages freed in Gaza; Israeli media report others being handed over

The first Israeli women and children hostages slated to be released under the war’s initial ceasefire agreement with Hamas were released on Friday, according to Israeli TV channels, and Thailand stated 12 Thai laborers were also released.

According to Israeli media, the Israeli hostages were turned up to the Red Cross and an Egyptian security force. Reuters was unable to confirm this quickly.

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said in a social media post that the 12 Thai workers had been released from captivity in Gaza. 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.

Under the terms of the four-day Israel-Hamas truce, 13 women and children out of around 240 hostages captured by Hamas fighters on a killing spree in southern Israel on Oct. 7 were expected to comprise the first group to be released.

They had been due to be freed with the aid of the Red Cross and an Egyptian security team at 4 p.m. (1400 GMT), nine hours after the start of the ceasefire, and to be flown home under military guard.

In exchange, Israel was due to release the first 39 Palestinians from its jails on Friday, among them 24 women and 15 teenagers.

A total of 50 hostages and 150 Palestinian prisoners are to be freed under the four-day truce, though Israel has said the ceasefire could be extended if Hamas continues to release hostages at a rate of at least 10 per day. A Palestinian source has said up to 100 hostages could go free.

Earlier on Friday, combat between Israeli troops and Hamas fighters halted for the first time in seven weeks in a temporary truce ahead of the hostage release.

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 on full throttle as soon as the truce was over.

  • Reuters