Flash News


Second exchange of Israeli hostages with Palestinian prisoners, VOA: Fragile cease-fire in Gaza

Second exchange of Israeli hostages with Palestinian prisoners, VOA: Fragile

The war has already claimed the lives of more than 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians killed by Hamas in the initial attack. More than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed, roughly two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.

The four-day ceasefire, which began on Friday, was brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States. Hamas will release at least 50 Israeli hostages and Israel 150 Palestinian prisoners. All are women and minors.

Israel has said the ceasefire could be extended by an extra day for every 10 hostages released, but has vowed to quickly resume the offensive once the ceasefire ends. Israel said early Sunday it had received a new list of hostages to be released later in the day, in the third of four planned exchanges.

The pause has given Gaza's 2.3 million residents, still reeling from relentless Israeli bombardment that has driven three-quarters of the population from their homes and flattened residential areas, a few days of peace. Rocket attacks by Gazan militants on Israel also ceased.

War-weary Palestinians in northern Gaza, where the offensive is concentrated, returned to the streets to see the damage. Entire blocks in and around Gaza City have been destroyed by airstrikes.

In southern Gaza, where hundreds of thousands of people from the north have sought refuge, residents lined up outside gas stations for a second day, hoping to secure fuel. Palestinians who have tried to return north to see their homes have been turned back by Israeli troops.

"Many are desperate to return to their homes, but they open fire on anyone who approaches from the south," said Rami Hazarein, who fled Gaza City last month.

The United Nations said the cease-fire has made it possible to scale up the distribution of food, water and medicine to the largest volume since the start of the war. The organization said it was also able to send 129,000 liters of fuel, just over 10 percent of the pre-war daily volume, as well as cooking gas, the first since the war began. Aid also reached northern Gaza for the first time in a month.

With the hostage release delayed on Saturday, Hamas claimed that aid shipments had failed to reach the expected rate and were not reaching far enough in the north. He also said Israel was not releasing enough long-term imprisoned Palestinians. Many Palestinians see prisoners held by Israel, including those involved in deadly attacks, as heroes who resist the occupation.


Shortly before midnight, Hamas released the second group of hostages, 13 Israelis and four Thais. They were handed over to Egypt and then transferred to Israel, where they were taken to hospitals.

Hamas released a video showing the hostages, who appeared shaken but mostly in good physical condition, as masked militants led them to Red Cross vehicles. Some of the hostages said goodbye to the militants. One girl was on crutches and her left leg was wrapped.

The Israeli hostages released Saturday included seven children and six women, Prime Minister Netanyahu's office announced. Most were from Kibbutz Be'eri, a community that Hamas militants destroyed during their October 7 attack. Children are from 3 to 16 years old and women from 18 to 67 years old.

It was an anxious moment for the residents of Be'er, who have been living in a Dead Sea hotel since their community was destroyed. A kibbutz spokesman said all of the freed hostages either had a family member killed in the Oct. 7 attack or a loved one still in captivity in Gaza.


Some of the Palestinian prisoners were released in east Jerusalem, while most returned home to a hero's welcome in the occupied West Bank.

Among those freed was Nurhan Awad, who was 17 in 2016 when she was sentenced to 13-and-a-half years for trying to stab an Israeli soldier with a pair of scissors. Israa Jaabis had been imprisoned since 2015 after being convicted of a bomb attack that injured an Israeli police officer and left Jaabis.

In the West Bank city of Al-Bireh, newly freed teenagers paraded through the main square waving Palestinian flags, as well as green banners of Hamas and yellow banners of rival Fatah party of President Mahmoud Abbas./Voa

Latest news