Hamas release another group of Israeli, Thai hostages


Hamas says it has released 13 Israeli hostages, three Thai citizens and a person with Russian citizenship who had been held in the Gaza Strip to the Red Cross on the third day of a truce between Israel and the militant group.

The release of some of the hostages captured when Hamas fighters rampaged through southern Israel on October 7 is expected to be mirrored by Israeli authorities freeing another group of 39 Palestinian prisoners as on previous days in the truce.

The four-day truce is the first halt in fighting in the seven weeks since Hamas killed 1200 people and took about 240 hostages back into Gaza.

In response to that attack, Israel has vowed to destroy the Hamas militants who run Gaza, bombarding the enclave and mounting a ground offensive in the north. 

Israeli tanks in Gaza Strip
Comments from Israeli officials suggest the army’s campaign in the Gaza Strip is far from over. (EPA PHOTO)

About 14,800 Palestinians have been killed, Gaza health authorities say, and hundreds of thousands displaced.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday met security forces inside the Gaza Strip and indicated that the campaign was far from over.

“Nothing will stop us, and we are convinced that we have the strength, the power, the will and the determination to achieve all the goals of the war, and that is what we will do,” he said.

The killing of a Palestinian farmer in the central Gaza Strip had earlier added to concerns over the fragility of the truce.

The farmer was killed when targeted by Israeli forces east of Gaza’s long-established Maghazi refugee camp, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.

On a more positive note, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said there was “reason to believe” a US hostage would be released from captivity in Gaza on Sunday. 

Sullivan declined to give the hostage’s identity.

Thirteen Israelis and four Thai citizens arrived in Israel early on Sunday after a second release of hostages held by Hamas following an initial delay caused by a dispute about aid delivery into Gaza.

Egypt and Qatar acted as mediators on Saturday to maintain the truce.

The armed wing of Hamas also said on Sunday that four of its military commanders in the Gaza Strip had been killed, including the commander of the North Gaza brigade, Ahmad Al Ghandour. 

It did not say when they had been killed.

Qatar, Egypt and the United States are pressing for the truce to be extended beyond Monday but it is not clear whether that will happen.

Israel had said the ceasefire could be extended if Hamas continued to release at least 10 hostages a day. 

A Palestinian source had said up to 100 hostages could go free.

Six of the group of 13 Israelis released on Saturday were women and seven were teenagers or children. 

The youngest was three-year-old Yahel Shoham, freed with her mother and brother, although her father remains a hostage.

Israel freed 39 Palestinians – six women and 33 teenagers  – from two prisons, the Palestinian news agency WAFA said.

Some of the Palestinians arrived at Al-Bireh Municipality Square in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where thousands of citizens awaited them, a Reuters journalist said.

Violence flared in the West Bank where Israeli forces killed seven Palestinians, including two minors and at least one gunman, late on Saturday and early Sunday, medics and local sources said.

Saturday’s swap follows the previous day’s initial release of 13 Israeli hostages, including children and the elderly, by Hamas in return for the release of 39 Palestinian women and teenagers from Israeli prisons.

The four Thais freed on Saturday “want a shower and to contact their relatives,” Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said on social media platform X.

All were safe and showed few ill-effects, he said.

“I’m so happy, I’m so glad, I can’t describe my feeling at all,” Thongkoon Onkaew told Reuters by telephone after news of the release of her son Natthaporn, 26, the family’s sole breadwinner.