February 23, 2024

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Israel releases 30 Palestinian prisoners;  Hamas releases 12 hostages

Israel releases 30 Palestinian prisoners; Hamas releases 12 hostages

DEIR BALAH (Gaza Strip) – Hamas and Israel released more hostages and prisoners under the terms of a fragile ceasefire that held for a fifth day on Tuesday while international mediators in Qatar worked to extend the truce. The United States urged Israel to provide better protection for Palestinian civilians in Gaza if it fulfills its promise to resume operations. the war.

In the latest exchange since the ceasefire began on Friday, Israel said 10 of its citizens and two Thai nationals had been released by Hamas and returned to Israel. Shortly after, Israel released 30 Palestinian prisoners. The truce is scheduled to end after another exchange on Wednesday night.

For the first time, Israel and Hamas exchanged accusations of responsibility for the exchange of fire between forces and militants in northern Gaza. There was no indication that this would jeopardize the truce that enabled humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza.

CIA Director William Burns and David Barnia, who heads the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, were in Qatar. A key mediator with HamasA diplomat, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the talks, said they would discuss extending the ceasefire and releasing more hostages. It was US Secretary of State Antony Blinken He is scheduled to visit the region this week.

Israel has vowed to resume the war to end Hamas’s 16-year rule in Gaza and crush its military capabilities once it becomes clear that no more hostages will be released under the deal. This will almost certainly require expanding its ground offensive from northern Gaza to the south, where most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are now concentrated. It is unclear where they would go if Israel did so Egypt refused to receive refugees Israel closed its borders.

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Biden administration He said to Israel It must avoid “further displacement” and mass casualties among Palestinian civilians if it resumes its offensive, and must operate with greater precision in southern Gaza than in the north, according to US officials. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the White House.

Hamas and other militants are still holding about 160 hostages out of 240 in their custody. October 7: Attack on southern Israel That sparked the war. Israel said it was prepared to extend the ceasefire by one day for every 10 additional hostages released by Hamas, according to the agreement. Mediated by Qatar, Egypt and the United States But Hamas is expected to make much higher demands for the release of captured Israeli soldiers.

Release hostages and prisoners

The latest group of Israeli hostages to be freed from Gaza – nine women and a 17-year-old boy – were airlifted to hospitals in Israel, the Israeli military said. An Associated Press video showed the hostages being handed over on a street crowded with cheering people. The 17-year-old can be seen walking alongside Hamas fighters to a Red Cross jeep with her little white-haired dog named Bella.

Tuesday’s release of the hostages brings the number of Israelis freed during the truce to 60. An additional 21 hostages – 19 Thais, one Filipino and one Russian-Israeli – have been released in separate negotiations since the truce began.

Before the truce, Hamas released four Israeli hostages, and the Israeli army rescued one of them. Two other hostages were found dead in Gaza.

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This latest exchange brings the number of Palestinian women and teenage girls released from Israeli prisons to 180. Most of them were teenagers accused of throwing stones and Molotov cocktails during confrontations with Israeli forces. Israeli military courts convicted many of the released women of attempting to carry out deadly attacks.

Palestinians widely view prisoners as heroes resisting occupation. Hundreds of Palestinians received released prisoners on Tuesday in the occupied West Bank.

The released hostages have mostly remained out of the public eye, however Their family details It’s starting to appear.

In one of the first interviews with a freed hostageRuti Monder, 78, told Israeli TV Channel 13 that she was initially well fed in captivity, but conditions worsened as the shortage worsened. She said she was held in a “suffocating” room and slept on plastic chairs covered with a sheet for about 50 days.

This photo provided by the Israeli military on Monday, November 27, 2023, shows released Israeli hostages Tal Goldstein Almog, 9, on the left, and his brother Gal, 11, as they return to Israel in an Israeli Air Force helicopter, after they were taken hostage by gunmen. Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (IDF via AP)

Northern Gaza is in ruins

The ceasefire allowed residents who remained in Gaza City and other parts of the north to go out to inspect the destruction and try to locate and bury their relatives.

Palestinians sell fruit in Gaza City on Monday, November 27, 2023, on the fourth day of the temporary ceasefire between Hamas and Israel.  (AP Photo/Mohamed Hajjar)

Palestinians sell fruit in Gaza City on Monday, November 27, 2023, on the fourth day of the temporary ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. (AP Photo/Mohamed Hajjar)

Displaced Palestinians walk inside a UN-run school during the fourth day of a temporary ceasefire between Hamas and Israel in Rafah, Gaza Strip, on Monday, November 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

Displaced Palestinians walk inside a UN-run school during the fourth day of a temporary ceasefire between Hamas and Israel in Rafah, Gaza Strip, on Monday, November 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

In the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, which was heavily bombed by Israel for weeks and surrounded by forces in fierce fighting with militants, “you come across entire residential complexes in the city that have been demolished, just pieces of concrete piled up as the buildings collapse,” says Thomas White. Director of the United Nations Agency for Palestine Refugees in Gaza.

The agency delivered six aid trucks to the camp, including supplies for a medical center. Footage of White’s visit showed streets lined with destroyed buildings, cars and piles of rubble.

UN-led aid consortium The United Nations estimates that more than 234,000 homes across Gaza have been damaged and 46,000 homes have been completely destroyed, representing approximately 60% of the housing stock in the Strip. She added that the devastation in the north “severely harms the ability to meet the basic requirements for sustaining life.”

More than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the war, nearly two-thirds of whom are women and minors, according to United Nations statistics. The Ministry of Health in the Hamas-controlled Gaza StripWhich does not differentiate between civilians and combatants. More than 1,200 people were killed on the Israeli side, most of them civilians killed in the initial attack.

At least 77 soldiers were killed in the Israeli ground attack. Israel says it has killed thousands of activists without providing evidence.

The authorities were able to reopen the dialysis department in Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City After the medical teams brought a small generator. Dr. Moatasem Salah told Al Jazeera from the hospital that about 20 patients spent two or three weeks without dialysis.

Two weeks ago, Israeli forces seized the hospital, which Israel claimed was being used as a main base by Hamas, an accusation denied by the movement and hospital staff.

Fears for the south

Israeli bombing and ground attack took place More than 1.8 million people were displacedNearly 80% of Gaza’s population, most of whom have sought refuge in the south, according to the United Nations. Hundreds of thousands of people crowded into schools and other UN-run facilities, with many forced to sleep on the streets outside due to overcrowding. The rain and cold winds sweeping the Gaza Strip have made conditions even more miserable.

On Tuesday, Hanan Tayeh returned to her destroyed home in the town of Jawhar al-Dik in the center of the country, to search for any possessions.

“I came to get anything for my daughters. Winter has come, and I have nothing to wear.

The ceasefire allowed this Increasing aid delivered to Gaza by between 160 to 200 trucks per dayBringing much-needed food, water and medicine, as well as fuel to homes, hospitals and water treatment plants. However, this amount is still less than half of what Gaza was importing before the fighting, even as humanitarian needs rise.

Juliette Touma, a spokeswoman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, said people were coming to shelters asking for heavy clothes, mattresses and blankets, and that some were sleeping in destroyed vehicles.

“The needs are enormous,” she told the Associated Press. “They have lost everything, and they need everything.”

The United States has transferred more than 27 tons of medical supplies and food aid bound for Gaza to a staging area in Egypt, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday. Two more airlifts are scheduled in the coming days, Sullivan said.

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Keith and Jeffrey reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Amer Madhani and Zeke Miller in Washington, Sami Magdy in Cairo, Tia Goldenberg in Tel Aviv, Isabelle Debre in Jerusalem, and Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

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Complete AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.