Thirteen Israelis, four children and nine women, returned to the Jewish state on Friday evening after 49 days in Hamas captivity in the Gaza Strip.
Israel identified the released hostages as: Hannah Katzir, 77, Margalit Mozes, 77, Yafa Ader, 85, Hannah Perry, 79, Adina Moshe, 72, Danielle Aloni, 44, Emilia Aloni, 9, Ruthi Mondar, 78, Keren Mondar, 54, Ohad Mondar, 9, Aviv Asher, 2, Raz Asher, 5, and Doron Katz-Asher, 34. Ten Thai citizens and one Filipino citizen were also released.
The much-anticipated return of the women and children was bitter-sweet for Israelis, as it left 34 children believed captive in Gaza along with 180 other hostages. Among the Israeli children who were still missing were a 10-month-old baby and his family and a 3-year-old girl whose parents were murdered by terrorists.
“We have now completed the return of the first of our hostage—children, their mothers and other women. Each and every one of them is an entire world,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “But I stress to you, the families of the hostages, and to you, the citizens of Israel: We are committed to the return of all our abductees. This is one of the goals of the war and we are committed to achieving all goals of the war.”
Palestinian terrorists from Gaza abducted 245 people, most of them Israeli civilians, during a rampage through southern Israel on Oct. 7. More than 1,200 people were killed in the attack, which Hamas planned and led. Hamas previously released four hostages, and the Israel Defense Forces rescued one. All but one of the released hostages was kidnapped from Niz Oz, a kibbutz near Israel’s Gaza border.
In exchange for the return of the hostages, Israel released 39 women and teenage Palestinian security prisoners and agreed to a four-day ceasefire with Hamas, which went into effect on Friday morning. As part of the deal, brokered by Qatar, a total of 50 hostages and 150 Palestinian prisoners are to be released. Israel could extend the pause of its seven-week war to destroy Hamas by up to six days. For each day of quiet, Hamas would have to free at least 10 hostages, and Israel would reciprocate with the release of up to 150 additional Palestinian prisoners.
The release of the Thais, who were all men, came as a result of a separate track of negotiations with Hamas mediated by Egypt and Qatar, Reuters reported, citing a source briefed on the talks.
The Red Cross transported the 24 released hostages to the the Rafiah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza. Israel Defense Forces troops brought the group into Israel via the Nitzana border crossing. After undergoing physical and mental health checks at the Hatzerim air force base near Beersheba, the IDF will fly the hostages to four hospitals across Israel, where families were waiting to be reunited with their loved ones.