Israel and Hamas are set to continue their hostage exchange process, entering the third round of releases on Sunday. This move comes amid a precarious four-day ceasefire in the over six-week-long conflict that has seen significant casualties and displacement.
On Sunday, Israel confirmed receiving a list of hostages slated for release by Hamas. This round follows the release of 17 hostages by Hamas late Saturday, including 13 Israelis and four Thais, and Israel’s subsequent freeing of 39 Palestinian prisoners.
Among the Israelis released were seven children and six women, mostly from Kibbutz Be’eri, with the children aged between 3 and 16 and the women between 18 and 67. A notable release was 21-year-old Maya Regev, who had been abducted during a deadly assault on the Supernova music festival.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s office acknowledged the list’s receipt and stated that security officials were verifying it. “The government embraces the 17 hostages returning home, our citizens and the Thai citizens,” the Prime Minister’s office said in a statement.
The Palestinian health ministry reported that Israeli forces had killed at least six Palestinians overnight in the West Bank. Meanwhile, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant visited the Gaza Strip for an operational assessment and emphasized the need to continue operations until all hostages are freed.
U.S. President Joe Biden has been actively engaged, speaking with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and being briefed on the hostage deal implementation. The White House National Security Council spokesperson, Adrienne Watson, affirmed the president’s involvement.
The UN has taken advantage of the ceasefire, increasing humanitarian assistance into Gaza. On Friday, 200 trucks were sent to the Rafah crossing, delivering food, water, and emergency medical supplies. Additionally, fuel and cooking gas for essential humanitarian infrastructure in Gaza were transferred from Egypt.
The hostage releases are part of a larger agreement, involving Israel, Palestinian militant groups, Qatar, Egypt, and the United States. Israel has stated that the ceasefire might be extended by an extra day for every 10 additional hostages freed by Hamas. Qatar, a key mediator, hopes to broker another agreement for more hostage releases by the ceasefire’s fourth day.