update deskIsrael at War

11 Israelis freed from Gaza after snag on fourth day of truce

"IDF and ISA forces are currently accompanying 11 released hostages inside Israeli territory," the Israeli military announced.

An Israel Air Force helicopter with released hostages arrives at Schneider Children's Medical Center in Petach Tikvah, Nov. 26, 2023. Photo by Yossi Aloni/Flash90.
An Israel Air Force helicopter with released hostages arrives at Schneider Children's Medical Center in Petach Tikvah, Nov. 26, 2023. Photo by Yossi Aloni/Flash90.

Following an hours-long delay, Hamas released 11 Israelis held in the Gaza Strip on Monday, the fourth day of a truce between Jerusalem and the Palestinian terrorist organization.

“IDF and ISA forces are currently accompanying 11 released hostages inside Israeli territory. After they undergo an initial medical assessment, our forces will accompany them until they are reunited with their families,” the Israel Defense Forces confirmed.

In a statement sent to JNS, the International Committee of the Red Cross said it had “successfully facilitated the release and transfer of 11 hostages held in Gaza,” adding that the organization’s role had been limited “to facilitat[ing] the agreement as a neutral intermediary.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office named the Israelis freed on Monday as Sharon Kunio-Aloni, 33, and her 3-year-old twin daughters Yuli and Emma; Karina Engel, 51, and her daughters Mika, 18, and Yuval, 11; siblings Erez Kalderon, 12, and Sahar Kalderon, 16; brothers Yagil Yaakov, 12, and Or Yaakov, 16; and 12-year-old Eitan Yahalomi.

Israel’s Ministry of Health announced that all 11 hostages were on their way to Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, where they were set to be reunited with their families.

“The Government of Israel embraces our 11 citizens who were held hostage who returned to Israeli territory today. Their families have been updated by the responsible officials that they have returned to the country,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.

“The Government of Israel is committed to the return of all of the hostages and missing. The Government, together with all of the security agencies, will assist them and their families,” added the statement.

The news of the hostages’ release came after Qatari mediators worked to resolve “issues” with the lists of Israeli captives and Palestinian terrorists to be released, an official briefed on the matter told Reuters.

CNN cited an Israeli official as saying there were “a number” of problems with Monday’s lists—one being that they did not contain any mothers. Under the terms of the deal, Hamas agreed that mothers would not be separated from their children, according to Jerusalem.

Two other sources familiar with the matter said at least one mother was included, just not the full group of mothers anticipated.

Saturday’s list did not include 12-year-old Hila Rotem Shoshani’s mother, Raya Rotem. Also, Mia Regev, 21, was freed without her 18-year-old brother Itai.

Under the four-day ceasefire that began on Friday morning, Hamas has now freed a total of 50 Israeli women and children. The terror group released an “extra” Israeli hostage on Sunday, a man with dual Russian citizenship, in a gesture to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Hamas also released a total of 19 foreign nationals in a side deal with Thailand.

In addition to temporarily pausing its military campaign against Hamas in Gaza, Israel agreed to release some 150 female and teenage Palestinian security prisoners, many of whom are affiliated with Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Following Monday’s hostages’ release, the IDF’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories Unit announced that “200 humanitarian aid trucks are being dispatched to the international aid organizations operating in Gaza through the Rafah crossing, after having undergone a security check at the Nitzana crossing.”

Hamas kidnapped some 240 people during its Oct. 7 assault on southern Israel, during which thousands of heavily armed gunmen murdered some 1,200 people and wounded more than 5,000 others.

In a statement on Sunday, the Gaza-based terrorist group said that it was seeking to extend the truce beyond the four-day period if Israel makes a “serious effort” to increase the number of Palestinian terrorists released from prison.

On Monday night, U.S. National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby said that Israel and Hamas agreed to extend the ceasefire-for-hostages agreement by two days.

“The humanitarian pause in Gaza, now in its fourth day, will be extended for another two days, through Thursday morning Israel time,” Kirby told journalists during a briefing.

“In order to extend the pause, Hamas has committed to releasing another 20 women and children,” added the spokesman.

The announcement came shortly after a spokesperson for Qatar’s Foreign Ministry said that “as part of the ongoing mediation, an agreement has been reached to extend the humanitarian pause for an additional two days in the Gaza Strip.”

The Prime Minister’s Office told JNS earlier on Monday that Jerusalem is not publicly discussing whether the four-day ceasefire with Hamas will be extended or if not, when it will officially end.

Army Radio reported on Monday that Israel believes that Hamas is holding at least 20 more mothers, children and elderly women. According to the report, Islamic Jihad handed over to Hamas most of the mothers, children and elderly women it was holding captive.

Kfir Bibas, at 10 months old the youngest Israeli held in Gaza, was not among the hostages released on Monday, the IDF’s Arabic-language spokesman told Sky News Arabia. Kfir and his 4-year-old brother, Ariel, were handed over by Hamas to another Palestinian terror faction and are being held in the southern Gaza Strip, said Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Channel 12 News reported that Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, paid a visit to several of the Israeli hostages held in an underground tunnel in the Strip.

One of the hostages released over the weekend said Sinwar spoke to them in Hebrew without an accent, the broadcaster added, claiming that the story has been confirmed by Israeli security officials.

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