Hamas started handing over more hostages to Israel on Tuesday, with Israel expected to free imprisoned Palestinians later in the day, as the warring sides abided by an extended truce.
The Israeli military confirmed that 12 hostages released by the Palestinian militants from Gaza have reached Israeli territory.
Qatar foreign ministry spokesperson Majed Al Ansari, who announced the release on social media, said that Israel, in turn, is expected to free 30 Palestinians — 15 children and 15 women — later on Tuesday.
The hostages were among some 240 people seized by Hamas gunmen during a rampage into southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which they killed 1,200 people, including several Canadians.
The truce has brought Gaza its first respite after seven weeks of intensive Israeli bombardment prompted by the Hamas attack.
The truce had been due to expire overnight into Tuesday but both sides agreed to extend the pause to allow for the release of more hostages held by Hamas and of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
Gaza health authorities, deemed reliable by the United Nations, say more than 15,000 people have been confirmed killed in Israel’s bombardment of the territory, around 40 per cent of them children, with many more dead feared to be lost under rubble.
Israel has said the truce could be prolonged further, provided Hamas continues to free at least 10 Israeli hostages per day. But with fewer women and children still in captivity, keeping the guns quiet beyond Wednesday may require negotiating to free at least some Israeli men for the first time.
On Tuesday, Israeli forces and Hamas fighters largely held their fire and both sides expressed their hope for further extensions of the pause in fighting that has reduced much of the Gaza Strip to rubble.
More than two-thirds of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have lost their homes, with thousands of families sleeping rough in makeshift shelters with only the belongings they could carry.
Source : CBC