Live updates | Israel-Hamas truce begins with swap of hostages and prisoners; more expected Saturday
Nov 23, 2023, 10:11 PM | Updated: Nov 24, 2023, 8:56 pm
A four-day cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war began Friday in Gaza as part of an agreement that Qatar helped broker. Twenty-four hostages were freed, including 13 Israeli citizens, 10 Thai citizens and one Filipino citizen, Qatar said. Israel released 39 Palestinian prisoners later in the day.
With the truce deal comes increased shipments of fuel and supplies into Gaza — though aid groups say that’s still only enough to dent the needs of the 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza who have endured weeks of Israeli bombardment. Israel has agreed to allow the delivery of 130,000 liters (34,300 gallons) of fuel a day into besieged Gaza for humanitarian needs for the duration of the truce.
More than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza after a dayslong pause in its casualty report, which it attributed to the health system’s collapse in northern Gaza making it impossible to provide a detailed count.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will press ahead with the war after the cease-fire expires. Some 1,200 people have been killed in Israel, mostly during the initial incursion by Hamas.
— A four-day truce begins, setting the stage for the release of dozens of hostages.
— Families of hostages not slated for release from Gaza during current truce face enduring nightmare.
— Palestinian families rejoice over release of minors and women.
— Palestinians in Gaza seeking refuge from war find their world is shrinking.
— Four of the 10 Thai hostages released by Hamas had not been listed as abducted.
— Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.
Here’s what’s happening in the war:
MANILA, Philippines — A national of the Philippines was in the first group of hostages freed by the militant group Hamas, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said Saturday.
Marcos wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that 33-year-old Gelienor ‘Jimmy’ Pacheco, who was taken to Gaza on Oct. 7, is now in the care of the Philippine Embassy in Israel.
That Israeli Embassy in Manila said Pacheco is being medically evaluated.
Marcos said the government remains concerned about the whereabouts of Filipino national Noralyn Babadilla, who also reportedly was taken hostage by Hamas.
JERUSALEM — Most of the Israeli hostages released by Hamas Friday were said to be in good health after returning to Israel, the hospital receiving them announced.
A statement from Schneider Children’s hospital, where four women and four child hostages were released, said that doctors had conducted a preliminary examination and said they were all in good physical condition.
A total of 13 Israeli hostages were freed Friday and transferred to three separate hospitals across Israel.
JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office says it has received a new list of hostages to be released by Hamas on Saturday.
It would be the second batch of hostages to be released by the Islamic militant group under a four-day truce.
Netanyahu’s office says it has notified the families whose loved-ones are set for release.
NANTUCKET, Mass. — President Joe Biden said Friday that he believes putting conditions on military aid to Israel is a “worthwhile thought,” and he hopes the Gaza cease-fire will last longer than four days.
Speaking to reporters from Nantucket, Massachusetts, Biden said he was encouraged by the release of some of the hostages and hopes for more.
“We expect more hostages to be released tomorrow, and more the day after, and more the day after that,” he said.
The freed hostages included 13 Israelis, 10 people from Thailand and one from the Philippines, according to Qatar, which was instrumental in brokering the deal to stop fighting. In return, Israel freed 39 Palestinians from prison.
Biden said that conditioning military aid to Israel was a “worthwhile thought, but I don’t think if I started off with that we would have ever gotten where we are today.”
He didn’t give any examples of possible conditions.
TEL AVIV — The Israeli military has “gotten to the heart” of Hamas’ military assets and plans to continue active fighting once a cease-fire ends, a spokesperson said Friday.
“There are still many goals and many tunnels to demolish, including some we have destroyed even this morning right before the ceasefire began,” Israeli Defense Forces spokesman Daniel Hagari told reporters.
Hagari spoke on the first day of a cease-fire that included an exchange of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners. The halt is scheduled expire on Monday unless additional Israeli hostages are released.
Hagari said the IDF would not allow Gazan civilians to return to their homes in the northern part of the Strip.
Israeli troops fatally shot two Palestinians and wounded 11 others on Friday as they headed toward the main combat zone in northern Gaza despite warnings by the Israeli army to stay put.
TEL AVIV — Israel confirmed Friday that it released 39 Palestinian prisoners in line with a truce deal that saw 13 Israeli hostages freed by militants in Gaza hours earlier.
Qadura Fares, who heads an advocacy group for prisoners, said 33 prisoners freed in the West Bank were handed to a team from the International Committee of the Red Cross. He said the remaining six were being freed from a Jerusalem lockup.
The releases on both sides were part of a deal for a four-day truce in the Israel-Hamas war that began Friday.
Over the next four days, 150 Palestinian prisoners and 50 Israeli hostages are to be freed.
TEL AVIV — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday welcomed the release of hostages taken in Hamas’ Oct. 7 raid into Israel, including 13 Israeli citizens, but said his government is committed to the return of all hostages.
About 240 people were taken in the attack.
Netanyahu described each of the hostages released as a four-day cease-fire began as “a world of their own.”
He said getting back all the hostages “is one of the goals of the war and we are committed to achieving all of the goals of the war.”
OUTSIDE OFER PRISON, West Bank — Israeli security forces fired volleys of tear gas Friday at thousands of Palestinians from all over the West Bank excitedly awaiting the release of 39 Palestinians in exchange for the hostages released by Hamas from Gaza.
Crowds waited for hours outside Israel’s Ofer Prison in the West Bank for the Palestinians to emerge.
Shortly after some raucous boys surged through the crowds with Hamas flags, Israeli forces unleashed tear gas, sending families bolting in the opposite direction, screaming, coughing and covering their watery, bloodshot eyes with their shirts.
DOHA, Qatar — Qatar’s Foreign Ministry has confirmed the release of 24 hostages after seven weeks of captivity in the Gaza Strip.
“Those released include 13 Israeli citizens, some of whom are dual citizens, in addition to 10 Thai citizens and a Filipino citizen,” said Majed al-Ansari, the ministry’s spokesperson. Qatar was a key mediator in the hostage release.
The International Committee of the Red Cross, which delivered the hostages from Gaza into Egypt, also confirmed the release.
The hostages, women and children, were undergoing medical checks before they were to be transferred to Israel. They are to be taken to Israeli hospitals and reunited with their families. They’re the first of 50 people to be released from Gaza during a four-day truce that began Friday.
Israel is to release 39 Palestinian prisoners later Friday, the first of a total of 150 Palestinian prisoners to be freed under the cease-fire.
RAFAH, Egypt — The Israeli government has summoned the ambassadors of Spain and Belgium after remarks by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and his Belgian counterpart Alexander de Croo Friday criticizing the bombing of civilians in Gaza and urging recognition for a Palestinian state.
Speaking at a joint press conference on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing with Gaza on Friday, Sánchez said the time has come for the international community and the European Union to recognize the State of Palestine, and warned that if it did not, Spain might do so on its own.
He said it would better if the EU did it together, “but if this is not the case … Spain will take their own decisions.”
He was speaking at end of a two-day visit to Israel, Palestinian Territories and Egypt with de Croo.
Israel has the right to defend itself “but it must do so within the parameters and limits imposed by international humanitarian law and this is not the case,” Sánchez said. “The indiscriminate killing of civilians, including thousands of boys and girls, are completely unacceptable.”
GENEVA — The Red Cross says it has begun a “multi-day operation” to reunite hostages and detainees on both sides of the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.
The group’s announcement came as Israeli media reported the Hamas militant group on Friday released the first batch of hostages under a cease-fire deal. The deal calls for 50 hostages to be freed over a four-day truce, with Israel to free 150 Palestinians in prison.
The International Committee of the Red Cross says it will also be ferrying in medical supplies for hospitals in Gaza.
WASHINGTON — The lead U.S. development agency is urging a rapid ramping-up of humanitarian assistance to battered Gaza for the long term, calling it “urgent and imperative.”
Samantha Power, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, made the call in a statement Thursday, as a carefully negotiated cease-fire and hostage release began in the Gaza Strip.
With 1.7 million people in Gaza internally displaced and virtually all of the 2.3 million people there needing aid, “the scale of humanitarian needs in Gaza is staggering,” Power wrote.
“It is both urgent and imperative that lasting mechanisms be put in place to significantly accelerate the pace of sustained aid into Gaza,” Power wrote.
BAGHDAD — Iranian-backed militias that have launched dozens of rocket and drone attacks on bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria in recent weeks held their fire on Friday, the first day of the a four-day truce between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
The lull came after an escalation this week in which U.S. warplanes killed multiple militants from the powerful Iraqi Kataib Hezbollah militia in response to the first use of short-range ballistic missiles against U.S. forces at Al-Asad Air Base.
Milita spokesman Jaafar al-Husseini said his group is “not necessarily” observing the truce — which only officially pertains to Gaza — but is “monitoring” the behavior of the United States and will act accordingly.
Kataib Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed militant groups under the umbrella group called the Islamic Resistance in Iraq began striking U.S. facilities Oct. 17 and have since launched more than 60 attacks in Iraq and Syria. The militant groups have said they are retaliating against the U.S. for its support of the Israeli offensive in Gaza that has killed more than 13,300 Palestinians, following the Hamas-led Oct. 7 surprise attack that killed about 1,200 Israelis.
Likewise, in southern Lebanon, where the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has exchanged fire with Israeli forces throughout the Israel-Hamas war, a cautious calm prevailed Friday. Some of the more than 55,000 Lebanese displaced by the fighting began returning to inspect their houses and businesses in border towns.
JERUSALEM — Thousands of Israelis gathered in what has been dubbed “Hostages Square” in Tel Aviv on Friday evening, singing songs to welcome the Jewish Sabbath and watching newscasts on large screens as they waited to receive news of the release of 13 Israeli hostages slated to be freed.
“My emotions are mixed,” Shelli Shem Tov, the mother of 21-year-old hostage Omer Shem Tov, told Israeli’s Channel 12 at the square. “I’m excited for the families that are going to hug their loved ones, I’m jealous, and I’m sad, mostly sad, that Omer is not coming home yet.”
BEIJING — French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna called Friday for the release of all hostages held in Gaza, including eight French citizens, and a lasting truce between Israel and Hamas.
‘’It is essential that international law is applied there (in Gaza) as elsewhere,’’ Colonna said during a trip to Beijing. ‘’All states have the right to defend themselves, but we must cooperate so that terrorism is contained.’’
She called for a durable truce so that ‘’the wounded can be treated, and humanitarian aid can arrive and ease the suffering of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.’’
The eight French hostages in Gaza include three children. The French president, foreign minister and defense minister have traveled to the region in recent weeks to push for their release and a long-term peace.
JERUSALEM — Israeli forces shot and killed a 12-year-old Palestinian boy in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian health officials said Friday, as violence surges in the territory under the shadow of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.
The boy was killed Thursday in the village of Beita near the flashpoint city of Nablus in the northern West Bank, the officials said.
The Israeli military said Palestinians threw stones when soldiers entered the village and that troops responded with live fire. The military said it was looking into the circumstances of the boy’s death.
Since the Israel-Hamas war began seven weeks ago, the West Bank has seen one of the deadliest periods in at least two decades. Israeli soldiers and settlers have killed 229 Palestinians, including 52 children and minors under the age of 18, in arrest raids and violent confrontations, according to U.N. figures.
DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — Israeli troops fatally shot two Palestinians and wounded 11 others as they headed toward the main combat zone in northern Gaza despite warnings by the Israeli army to stay put.
An Associated Press journalist saw the two bodies and the wounded as they arrived at a hospital in the town of Deir al-Balah in the southern half of Gaza. The injured had been shot in the legs.
Friday’s shooting came hours after the Israeli military warned hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians who sought refuge in southern Gaza not to attempt to return to their homes in the northern half of the territory, the focus of Israel’s ground offensive.
The military had dropped leaflets on southern Gaza saying that returning to northern Gaza is prohibited and dangerous.
Witnesses said Israeli troops are opening fire on people trying to head north.
Sofian Abu Amer, who had fled Gaza City, said he decided to risk heading north to check on his home.
“We don’t have enough clothes, food and drinks,” he said. ”The situation is disastrous. It’s better for a person to die.”
BEIRUT — The leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group said Friday that Israeli soldiers among the 240 hostages held by militant groups in Gaza will only be released in exchange for all the Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.
Islamic Jihad is reportedly holding about 40 of the hostages who were captured by Hamas and other militant groups during their Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel. Over the next four days, 50 hostages are to be released in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners, with both sides releasing women and children first.
In a televised speech, Islamic Jihad leader Ziad Nakhaleh said that “the enemy’s military prisoners will not be released without the freedom of our prisoners and this is linked to the end of the aggression.” He said that Israel would be forced to “eventually reach a deal of everyone in return for everyone.”
It was not immediately clear how many of the hostages held in Gaza are currently serving in the military and whether the militants also consider reserve soldiers to be military hostages.
JERUSALEM — Israel announced that four tankers with fuel and four tankers with cooking gas entered the Gaza Strip on Friday, the first day of what is meant to be a four-day cease-fire.
Israel has agreed to allow the delivery of 130,000 liters (34,300 gallons) of fuel a day into besieged Gaza for humanitarian needs for the duration of the truce. This would be roughly twice the amount permitted previously, but still only a small portion of Gaza’s daily needs, estimated at more than 1 million liters (264,000 gallons).
For most of the past seven weeks of war, Israel had barred the entry of any fuel to Gaza, claiming it could be used by Hamas for military purposes. United Nations aid agencies pushed back against such claims, saying fuel deliveries were closely supervised and urgently needed to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.
JERUSALEM — The Israeli military said Friday it has destroyed stretches of tunnels and a number of tunnel shafts in the area of Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest.
On Wednesday, Israel showed a tunnel and rooms that military officials said were a major Hamas hideout beneath Shifa. Hamas and hospital staff deny Israeli allegations that Shifa was used as a militant command center.
On Thursday, Israeli military spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Israel mapped out Shifa Hospital and plans to destroy all “terror infrastructure” it has found.
A temporary truce in the Israel-Hamas war took effect early Friday, setting the stage for the exchange of dozens of hostages held by militants in Gaza for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.
The halt is to last at least four days. During the truce, Gaza’s ruling Hamas group pledged to free at least 50 of the about 240 hostages it and other militants took in their deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israel. In turn, Israel is to free three Palestinian prisoners for each released hostage. The releases are to take place in stages over the next four days.
The truce deal was reached in weeks of intense indirect negotiations, with Qatar, the United States and Egypt as mediators. The truce marks the first significant break in fighting since Israel declared war on Hamas seven weeks ago.
This story has corrected the dateline and text of item on Spain/Belgium leaders to show they spoke on Egyptian side of border.