Israel and Hamas complete second day of swaps as Gaza ceasefire holds

26 November 2023, 06:44

Israel Palestinians
Israel Palestinians. Picture: PA

The late-night exchange was held up for several hours after Hamas accused Israel of violating the agreement.

Hamas militants on Saturday released 17 hostages, including 13 Israelis, from captivity in the Gaza Strip while Israel freed 39 Palestinian prisoners in the latest stage of a four-day ceasefire.

The late-night exchange was held up for several hours after Hamas accused Israel of violating the agreement.

The delay underscored the fragility of the ceasefire, which has halted a war that has shaken Israel, caused widespread destruction across the Gaza Strip and threatened to unleash wider fighting across the region.

The army said Red Cross representatives transferred the freed hostages to Egypt late on Saturday. They later said they have been transferred to Israel where they were being taken to hospitals for observation and to be reunited with families.

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin said nine-year-old Irish-Israeli girl Emily Hand was one of those released after being held captive by Hamas in Gaza.

The ceasefire, brokered by Qatar and the United States, is the first extended break in fighting since the war began on October 7. Overall, Hamas is to release at least 50 Israeli hostages, and Israel 150 Palestinian prisoners. All are women and minors.

Israel has said the truce can be extended by an extra day for every additional 10 hostages freed, but has vowed to quickly resume its offensive and complete its goals of returning all hostages and destroying Hamas’ military and governing capabilities.

Thousands of people gathered in central Tel Aviv on Saturday in solidarity with the hostages and their families.

Israel Palestinians
People participate in a show of solidarity with hostages being held in the Gaza Strip, near the Museum of Art in Tel Aviv (Leo Correa, AP)

Many accuse Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of not doing enough to bring the hostages home.

The office of Mr Netanyahu announced early on Sunday that it had received a new list of hostages slated to be released later in the day in the third of four scheduled swaps.

In the West Bank, hundreds of people burst into wild celebrations for a second night as a busload of Palestinian prisoners arrived early on Sunday.

Teenage boys released in the deal were carried on the shoulders of well-wishers in the main square of the town of Al Bireh. But the mood of celebration was dampened by scenes of destruction and suffering in Gaza.

The start of the pause brought quiet for 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza, who are reeling from relentless Israeli bombardment that has killed thousands, driven three-quarters of the population from their homes and leveled residential areas. Rocket fire from Gaza militants into Israel also went silent.

Israel Palestinians
A Palestinian prisoner, centre, released by Israel is welcomed to the West Bank town of Al Bireh on Sunday (Nasser Nasser, AP)

War-weary Palestinians in northern Gaza, where the offensive has been focused, returned to the streets, crunching over rubble between shattered buildings and at times digging through it with bare hands.

At the Indonesian hospital in Jabaliya, besieged by the Israeli military earlier this month, bodies lay in the courtyard and outside the main gate.

For Emad Abu Hajer, a resident of the Jabaliya refugee camp in the Gaza City area, the pause meant he could again search through the remains of his home, which was flattened in an Israeli attack last week.

He found the bodies of a cousin and nephew, bringing the death toll in the attack to 19. His sister and two other relatives are still missing.

“We want to find them and bury them in dignity,” he said.

Israel Palestinians
Palestinians walk by buildings destroyed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in Nusseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip (Adel Hana, AP)

The United Nations said the pause enabled it to scale up the delivery of food, water, and medicine to the largest volume since the resumption of aid convoys on October 21.

It was also able to deliver 129,000 liters (about 35,000 gallons) of fuel — just over 10% of the daily pre-war volume — as well as cooking gas, a first since the war began.

In the southern city of Khan Younis, a long line of people with containers waited outside a filling station. Hossam Fayad lamented that the pause in fighting was only for four days.

“I wish it could be extended until people’s conditions improved,” he said.

For the first time in over a month, aid reached northern Gaza. The Palestinian Red Crescent said 61 trucks carrying food, water and medical supplies headed there on Saturday, the largest aid convoy to reach the area yet.

The UN said it and the Palestinian Red Crescent were also able to evacuate 40 patients and family members from a hospital in Gaza City to a hospital in Khan Younis.

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

Bangladesh Fire

Dozens killed in fire at shopping centre in Bangladesh capital

Israel Palestinians Rafah Photo Gallery

Israeli troops ‘fire on people waiting for aid’ as Gaza death tolls hits 30,000

Former Ambassador Arrested

Former career US diplomat admits spying for Cuban intelligence for decades

Donald Trump

Trump appeals against decision to remove his name from Illinois primary ballot

The man was found at his home in Herne, Germany.

Horror as man found with ‘penis bitten off and eaten by pet dog’ after neighbours reported relentless barking

Russia Ukraine War

Russian onslaught targets more Ukrainian towns and villages

Sergei Sokolov

Editor of top independent Russian newspaper detained for ‘discrediting military’

Texas Wildfires

Huge wildfire grows to become largest in history of Texas

Nicaragua Crackdown Scouts

Nicaragua crackdown ‘tantamount to crimes against humanity’ – UN

Paris Atmosphere – Liverpool v Real Madrid – UEFA Champions League Final

Leap-year newspaper raises money and laughs in France

Paul Pogba has been banned

Paul Pogba banned from football for four years after ex-Manchester United star failed drugs test

OLY Paris Games Olympic Village Inauguration

Macron vows to swim in cleaned-up Seine during tour of Olympic village

Figure Humanoid Robots

ChatGPT creator signs deal to put AI into humanoid robots

Russia Putin

Sending Western troops to Ukraine risks global nuclear conflict, says Putin

Senegal Migrants Deaths

Dozens of migrants die off Senegal coast after boat capsizes

Spain Soccer La Liga

Football fan arrested for ‘death threats’ against girl wearing Real Madrid shirt