Feature Photo above: Displaced Palestinians walk along a road in Khan Younis as they return to their homes [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]
At least 13 Iraeli captives have been released while 39 Palestinians are looking forward to be released as the truce to suspend hostilities between Israel and Hamas take effect.
Israeli military says released captives ‘on Israeli territory’
In a post on X, the military said the captives were being escorted by Israeli forces and Shin Bet agents.
It said the captives would be accompanied until they are reunited with their families at Israeli hospitals.
Eli Bin, the director general of Israel’s national emergency service Magen David Adom, has told Army Radio he had spoken to the Red Cross delegation overseeing the captive release.
He said he was told an initial assessment indicated the captives were in “good and reasonable” health.
The released Israeli captives were set to be brought to hospitals in Israel after being brought from Gaza to Egypt via the Rafah crossing.
Earlier reports on Al-Jazeera said the Qatar-mediated four-day truce had taken effect in Israel’s war on Gaza. The first pause after seven weeks of bombardment has been met with relief by Palestinians.
During the humanitarian break in the fighting, which began at 7am (05:00 GMT) on Friday, 150 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails and 50 captives held by the Hamas armed group in Gaza are due to be released.
The first releases, which will see 39 Palestinians and 13 Israelis freed, are expected on Friday afternoon.
In the hours preceding the start of the truce, Israeli bombing intensified across the Gaza Strip, with attacks in Rafah and the city of Khan Younis in the south, as well as constant artillery shelling in the north of the enclave.
Almog Boker, a correspondent for the Israeli station Channel 13, has posted a video online showing Israeli soldiers celebrating from afar as a number of buildings were destroyed in the northern Gaza Strip in the last hour before the start of the truce.
The first pause in the fighting was met with huge relief by Palestinians, who were rejoicing to be safe from Israeli bombardment for the first time in weeks, Al Jazeera’s Tareq Abu Azzoum reported from Khan Younis, southern Gaza.
“This is the first time that we have not heard Israeli drones since the beginning of this round of fighting,” he said. “People sense that there is a glimmer of hope that this short-term pause will pave the way for a longer ceasefire.”
Badly needed aid
Under the deal, badly needed aid will be allowed into Gaza. The enclave has been under a total Israeli blockade since the war was triggered by Hamas’s attack on October 7.
Egypt said 130,000 litres of diesel and four trucks of gas will be delivered daily to Gaza over the four days. Overall, 200 trucks carrying aid are set to enter Gaza daily.
Al Jazeera’s Youmna ElSayed, reporting from the Rafah border crossing, said the flow of trucks carrying fuel and gas had begun.
Additional aid would start entering into and the first captives, including elderly women, would be freed at 4pm (14:00 GMT), said Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesperson Majed al-Ansari in Doha. The total number of hostages to be freed by Hamas will rise to 50 over the four days.
Qatar will monitor the truce in real time for possible violations, reported Al Jazeera’s James Bays from Doha.
“Qatar has an operations room here in Doha where they are going to get real-time information from Gaza. They have direct links with the Israeli military, with Hamas,” he said.
“The idea is that if there is any sort of violation, that because of those direct links, they are going to try and nip it in the bud and make sure that this truce can continue, that this process can continue for the four days,” he added.
Fighting raged on in the hours leading up to the truce, with officials inside the Hamas-ruled enclave saying a hospital in Gaza City was among the targets bombed.
Both sides also signalled the pause would be temporary before fighting resumes.
The Indonesian Hospital was reeling under relentless bombing, operating without light and filled with bedridden old people and children too weak to be moved, Gaza health officials said.
Munir al-Bursh, the Gaza health ministry director, told Al Jazeera that a wounded woman was killed and three others injured.
Israel launched its devastating invasion of Gaza after gunmen from Hamas burst across the border fence on October 7, killing 1,200 people and seizing about 240 captives, according to Israeli tallies.
Since then, Israel has rained bombs on the besieged enclave, killing more than 14,000 people in Gaza, about 40 percent of them children, according to Palestinian health authorities.
‘I want to go home’
As soon as the fighting paused, thousands of displaced Palestinians have set out to check on their homes in central and southern areas of the enclave reports Al Jazeera’s Wael Dahdouh from Khan Younis.
“One man said, ‘I want to go home and even if it is destroyed, I want to stay there. I want to die there’,” the correspondent reported.
“One woman with a child said, ‘I pray that these days will get longer and longer, to just feel safe for a day or two’.”
However, the Israeli military said its forces will be stationed at the truce lines and will not allow Palestinians to head to northern Gaza.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA