A Palestinian prisoner (L) returns to Jerusalem after being released from
the Israeli Ofer prison, on Nov. 24, 2023.[Photo/Xinhua]
The Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, released on Sunday the third batch of hostages from the Gaza Strip under a temporary ceasefire agreement with Israel.
"Within the framework of the humanitarian truce, we handed over to the Red Cross 13 Israeli detainees, three Thais, and one Russian," Al-Qassam said in a press statement.
Israeli Army Radio said part of the handover process took place in the northern Gaza Strip, adding that "a number of detainees crossed the border from a point between Gaza and Israel."
Meanwhile, the Israeli army confirmed in a statement that it had received from the International Committee of the Red Cross the 13 Israeli hostages, including four women and nine children, with the youngest being four years old.
The army explained that "the Red Cross crews handed over 12 hostages to the Israeli Army Special Forces and the Shin Bet internal security agency at the border fence in the central Gaza Strip, who will then transport them to the Hatzerim Airbase."
It added that the 13th one, an 84-year-old woman suffering from a medical condition, was airlifted directly to Soroka Hospital in the southern Israeli city of Beer Sheva.
According to the Israeli Army Radio, "the four foreign hostages were transferred to Egypt via the Rafah Crossing by the Red Cross, before heading for the meeting point with Israeli troops in Israeli territory."
Meanwhile, the Palestine Liberation Organization's prisoners department published a list of 39 Palestinian prisoners released on Sunday evening, including 21 from Jerusalem, one from the Gaza Strip, and the rest from the West Bank.
Xinhua reporter stationed in Ramallah confirmed the arrival of the buses that transferred the 39 released Palestinian prisoners, all of whom are children.
At the same time, mediation efforts have been intensified to extend the current ceasefire, according to Palestinian sources.
"Qatar and Egypt conveyed a draft agreement to Israel and Hamas on extending the ceasefire due to expire Monday and facilitating a larger prisoner swap between the two warring sides," the sources, who wished to be anonymous, told Xinhua.
The sources said the discussions involved the release of 40 to 50 captives from Gaza, coupled with increased humanitarian aid flow into the strip to alleviate the humanitarian crisis.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video statement on Sunday that he might agree to extend the truce by a few days if Hamas would free more hostages.
Meanwhile, according to a statement from a Hamas representative on Sunday night, "Hamas is seeking to extend the ceasefire beyond the four days that were initially agreed upon with Israel."
The temporary ceasefire in Gaza, entering its third day, entails a cessation of hostilities and an increased flow of aid trucks into the Palestinian enclave.
On Saturday, the second batch of the release was implemented after a delay of several hours, as Hamas accused Israel of failing to adhere to what was agreed upon under the truce, regarding the entry of relief trucks into the north of Gaza.
The truce deal reached between Israel and Hamas also stipulates the release of 50 Israeli female and teen hostages from Gaza in exchange for some 150 Palestinian women and children freed from Israeli prisons, with provisions for increasing the number of releases at subsequent stages of the agreement.