Gaza: After hours of delay due to the mediation of Qatar and Egypt amid the ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war, 13 Israeli and four Thai prisoners were released by Hamas on Saturday. Hamas handed over the detainees to the International Red Cross Society (ICRC) after accusing Israel of violating the terms of the ceasefire. In return, Israel is expected to release 39 Palestinian prisoners from its jails.
Qatar’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Majid al-Ansari said in a post on Twitter that 13 Israelis and four foreign nationals have been handed over to the ICRC. After undergoing an initial medical examination, the hostages were taken to an airbase in southern Israel. From there, they will be taken to several different hospitals in the Tel Aviv area for additional medical and psychological examination. According to a statement from the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli detainees included six adult women and seven children and teenagers. The hostages were released after spending 50 days in captivity.
The prisoner swap deal was delayed by seven hours due to a dispute over the distribution of humanitarian aid to Gaza. Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan had earlier said that Israel had approved less relief distribution than promised and that aid was not reaching northern Gaza. Hamdan said from Beirut that only 65 of the 340 aid trucks that had entered Gaza since Friday had reached northern Gaza, less than half of what Israel had agreed. Israel has said that 50 trucks with food, water, shelter equipment, and medical supplies have been sent to northern Gaza under UN monitoring. Which is the first significant aid delivery there since the war started seven weeks ago.
The Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, had earlier said that Israel had failed to respect the conditions for the release of Palestinian prisoners. Kadura Fares, the Palestinian commissioner for prisoners, said Israel had not released detainees based on seniority, as had been expected. While Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari said that the government is committed to adhering to the ceasefire agreement with Hamas there are many parties and factors involved. He said that every day brings with it complications.
The prisoner swap deal is seen as a confidence-building measure between Israel and Hamas, who have fought four wars since 2008. The ceasefire, which came into effect on Friday, has brought an end to the latest round of violence that killed more than 250 people, mostly Palestinians. The two sides have agreed to resume indirect talks on a long-term truce and the reconstruction of Gaza.