First Israeli hostages reunited with families, as government prepares for more captives to be released

24 November 2023, 22:55 | Updated: 25 November 2023, 07:45

Eight Israeli hostages have been reunited with their families
Eight Israeli hostages have been reunited with their families. Picture: Alamy/Hostages and Missing Families Forum

By Kit Heren

Eight of the Israeli hostages released by Hamas on Friday have been reunited with their families, with the country preparing to receive more prisoners freed by the terror group on Saturday.

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Hamas released 24 hostages in total on Friday. Thirteen were from Israel, with the remainder made up of ten Thais and one Filipino.

Of the Israeli hostages, four are children, and the remaining nine are women. Three of the women are mothers to the released children, and five of the rest are elderly. Some have serious health conditions.

The youngest of the hostages released is a two-year-old girl, and the oldest is an 85-year-old woman.

The freed hostages, who only make up about a tenth of the 240 people in captivity, have been handed over to the Red Cross by Hamas and are now in Israel. Hamas is expected to release 50 hostages in total.

Read more: 'We won't live with Hamas': Fragile four-day truce between Israel and Hamas is 'just a pause', insists Netanyahu adviser

Read more: Who are the 13 Israeli hostages released by Hamas?

A helicopter carrying hostages released by Hamas lands at Schneider Children's Medical Center in Petah Tikva, Israel on Friday
A helicopter carrying hostages released by Hamas lands at Schneider Children's Medical Center in Petah Tikva, Israel on Friday. Picture: Alamy

Israel has released 39 Palestinian prisoners into the West Bank in exchange, amid scenes of disorder, and ceased fire temporarily in Gaza. Meanwhile 137 trucks of aid entered Gaza on Friday, the largest amount of humanitarian aid since the start of the war.

The Israeli government said on Friday night that it had received a list of the next group of hostages to be released on Saturday. They did not say how many captives would be set free, nor did they give any names. Israel will release more Palestinian prisoners in return.

The country's security services are reviewing the list, the Prime Minister's Office said. The families of the people on the list have been notified.

If all goes to plan, the hostages should be released at about 4pm local time (2pm UK time) on Saturday.

People react as they hear the news of the release of 13 Israeli hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza strip, in Tel Aviv
People react as they hear the news of the release of 13 Israeli hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza strip, in Tel Aviv. Picture: Alamy

Eight of the hostages freed on Friday - four adults and the four children - were taken by helicopter to the Schneider Children's Medical Center in Petah Tikva, near Tel Aviv, for a medical examination, and were said to be in good condition. They were also reunited with their families.

The hospital's CEO Dr Efrat Bron-Harlev, said in a press conference: "I was thrilled to be the one to receive four children, three mothers and a grandmother to the best and most caring hands here.

"There are not enough words to express the emotion that we are feeling at this time, together with the families and the entire nation of Israel."

The moment Israeli hostages returned to Israel

Dr Bron-Harlev said the freed hostages were in a good condition, and are still under examination.

"Our hearts go to the hostages who are still in Gaza," she added.

A spokesperson for the Israeli ministry of health said of the hostages: "We all anxiously awaited their return and are elated to see the day that they have come home to us."

He added: "This is a complex event, both medically and emotionally."

Hamas video of hostages being released

Footage released by the IDF shows the moment the hostages were driven back into Israel in white coaches.

Hamas also released footage on Friday evening showing scared-looking hostages being released from captivity. Some appeared too weak to walk on their own, and had to be carried or supported heavily.

The 13 Israelis who have been freed
The 13 Israelis who have been freed. Picture: Hostages and Missing Families Forum

The names of the hostages released on Friday are:

  • Margalit Moses, 77
  • Adina Moshe, 72
  • Danielle Aloni, 45, and her daughter Emilia, 5
  • Doron Katz Asher, 34, and her daughters Raz, 4, and Aviv, 2
  • Keren Munder, 54, and her son Ohad, 9
  • Ruti Munder, 78
  • Yaffa Adar, 85
  • Channa Perri, 79
  • Hanna Katzir, 77, who was said to be held by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a Hamas ally, rather than Hamas themselves

Palestinian Islamic Jihad had earlier falsely claimed that Ms Katzir had been killed in an Israeli airstrike.

Ms Katz Asher, and her daughters Raz and Aviv are German-Israeli dual citizens, as well as Ms Moses.

Ms Katz Asher's husband said he would not celebrate fully until all the hostages were released.

People in Tel Aviv celebrate the news of the release of 13 Israeli hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza strip,
People in Tel Aviv celebrate the news of the release of 13 Israeli hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza strip,. Picture: Alamy

"It is okay to rejoice, and to shed a tear, it is a human thing, but I do not celebrate and will not celebrate until the last one returns," Yoni Asher said.

"There are people whose hearts are broken right now, and I want to make sure all the hostages return. The families of the hostages are not a poster or a slogan, they are real people, and from today they are my new family".

Ms Adar hit the headlines during the hostage capture when she was filmed being taken on a golf buggy. Her dignified appearance in an alarming situation was said to have inspired people around the world.

Her granddaughter told LBC's Andrew Marr this week that she didn't know if her grandmother would be among the hostages released.

She said that Ms Adar was young in spirit, but needed medication that she wouldn't have been able to take with her into captivity.

Confirming the names of the Israeli prisoners who had been released earlier on Friday, a spokesperson for the Israeli government said it "embraces our citizens returning home."

The spokesperson added: "The Israeli government is committed to the return of all abductees and missing persons.

"Our citizens underwent an initial medical examination and their families were informed by the appointed officials that they were back.

"In addition, 11 foreign citizens were released."

Joe Biden said that the released hostages were "the start of a process".

An Israeli prison transport vehicle carries Palestinian prisoners released by the Israeli authorities from Ofer military prison near Jerusalem on Friday
An Israeli prison transport vehicle carries Palestinian prisoners released by the Israeli authorities from Ofer military prison near Jerusalem on Friday. Picture: Alamy

Hamas had previously released four hostages: a mother and a daughter, and two elderly women for "humanitarian reasons and poor health grounds".

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday: "We just completed the return of the first of our hostages: children, their mothers and additional women. Each of them is an entire world.

"But I emphasise to you, the families, and to you, the citizens of Israel: We are committed to returning all the hostages.

"This is one of the aims of the war and we are committed to achieving all the aims of the war."

Israelis rejoiced in Tel Aviv as the hostages were released
Israelis rejoiced in Tel Aviv as the hostages were released. Picture: Alamy

The Red Cross said its operation to "re-unite hostages and detainees with their families" was under way on Friday evening and it would be a "multi-day" task.

"We are relieved to confirm the safe release of 24 hostages," it said on X.

"We have facilitated this release by transporting them from Gaza to the Rafah border, marking the real-life impact of our role as a neutral intermediary between the parties.

Israeli spokesman: 'When it ends with an Israeli victory we must make sure it never happens again'

"It's a tremendous relief that after enduring weeks of distress, they can finally reunite with their families."

"The Israel Defence Forces salutes and embraces the released hostages upon their return home," Israel's military said.

"The IDF, together with the entire Israeli security establishment, will continue operating until all the hostages are returned home."

Photographs of hostages have been put up in Tel Aviv since the October 7 attack
Photographs of hostages have been put up in Tel Aviv since the October 7 attack. Picture: Alamy

Eylon Levy, a spokesman for the Israeli government, told LBC's Tom Swarbrick there would be a "long process of rehabilitation and healing for kids who have literally been in the bowels of hell".

The prisoner exchange means the ground invasion is on hold, with Gaza city cut off from the south of the strip by the Israel Defence Forces.

Families of the hostages take part in a Shabbat prayer service in Tel Aviv ahead of some being released
Families of the hostages take part in a Shabbat prayer service in Tel Aviv ahead of some being released. Picture: Getty

Qatar said 39 Palestinian prisoners had been released into the West Bank by Israel.

Minibuses transporting the prisoners were seen heading from Ofer prison, in the West Bank. They are thought to be 24 women and 15 teenage boys.

Some of those held were in jail for attempted stabbings, while others are behind bars for acts like throwing stones at Israeli troops.

A number were held in administrative detention, having not even had a trial. None have been convicted of murdering Israelis.

Ugly scenes erupted in the West Bank on Friday as Israel released tear gas amid riotous celebrations at the release of the prisoners.

Some 137 trucks of aid entered Gaza on Friday, as the UN was able to boost supplies during the ceasefire.

The UN said: "Hundreds of thousands of people were assisted with food, water, medical supplies and other essential humanitarian items."

Around 129,000 litres of fuel and four trucks of gas also made the crossing into Gaza.

Hopes that the truce will is develop into a full ceasefire are unlikely to be realised.

Israel is determined to destroy Hamas after the terror group rampaged over the Gaza border wall and massacred more than 1,000 people, kidnapping more than 200 and holding them in the strip.

Levy told LBC the goal was still to "end Hamas".

"It means destroying all of Hamas' infrastructure, all of its rockets, all of its tunnels, going after all of its commanders, all of its terrorists, so that Hamas no longer governs the Gaza Strip," he said.

Mr Netanyahu said on Wednesday he wants to "continue with the goals of the war and we will eradicate Hamas".

The terrorists' health ministry in Gaza has claimed more than 14,000 people have been killed since Israel launched Operation Iron Swords.

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