First 13 hostages released in Israel-Hamas truce and exchange deal

November 24, 2023

The first batch of 13 hostages, all Israeli nationals of dual citizenship, had arrived back in Israel Friday, roughly two and half hours after they were released from Hamas’ captivity into Red Cross custody on their way to Israel as part of a four-day truce agreement.

The Israel military says they have undergone an initial medical assessment.

However, a U.S. official told CNN  early Friday morning that three Americans who had been anticipated among the 13 hostages—including the youngest American captive, Abigail Mor Edan whose 4th birthday is Friday—were in fact, not to be freed in Friday’s initial group.

Another six Americans remain unaccounted for amid the fighting in the region.

Israel agreed Tuesday night to a Qatar- and Egypt-brokered deal for Hamas to release 50 hostages, all women and children, in exchange for a four-day pause in fighting and for Israel to release 150 Palestinians that it’s holding prisoner amid the war being waged in Gaza.

A few hours before the agreed-upon time (4pm local time, 9am ET) for the hostages’ release, Israel Defense Forces posted a video of preparations for receiving the hostages, including new clothing, blankets and other supplies.

“We have readied several locations dedicated to their initial reception, which include the necessary medical provisions. After the initial reception and medical treatment, they will continue to hospitals where they’ll be reunited with their families,” IDF wrote in the social media posting. 

Israel has stated that the ceasefire deal also includes allowing Red Cross staff to visit the remaining hostages being held by Hamas.

In exchange for the 13 hostages, 39 Palestinian prisoners—24 women and 15 children— were also released on Friday by Israel, with the remaining 150 promised in the deal to be released over the next four days. 

Altogether roughly 8,300 Palestinian prisoners are being held in Israeli jails, according to the Palestinian Commission for Detainees and Ex-Prisoners’ Affairs.

In a side deal, 10 Thai citizens and one Filipino citizen were also reportedly released by Hamas on Friday, according to Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari.

Following a delay in the deal Thursday, the four-day truce began at 7am local time (12am ET) Friday. The cease-fire appeared to be holding Friday morning, with journalists announcing that heavy weapons fire, artillery fire, airstrikes and rockets had stopped within the initial hour of the truce.

The 50 hostages to be released are a bit more than one-fifth of the 240 that Israel says Hamas took captive during the terrorist organization’s massive October 7 surprise attack on Israel that sparked the war in Gaza. 

PHOTO: Pictures of hostages at families gathering in Israel

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