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Hamas terrorists release first Israeli hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners amid ceasefire

The temporary ceasefire began at 7 a.m. local time and the first release of 13 hostages will be received by the International Red Cross for medical treatment

Israel protests
Israel protests | Shutterstock

November 24, 2023 10:49am

Updated: November 24, 2023 11:06am

A four-day ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war began early Friday morning, as the terrorist organization released its first group of 13 hostages in exchange for 39 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Twelve Thai hostages were also released as part of a separate deal brokered by the Egyptian government. 

The exchange took place at the Rafah border between Egypt and Gaza at about 11 a.m., where the hostages were received by the International Red Cross. They will subsequently be transferred to the Israeli capital, Tel Aviv.

The temporary ceasefire began at 7 a.m. local time and the exchange process is expected to continue during the next four days.

Israeli Consul General Aviv Ezra told Fox News reporter Molly Line it was important to note that, “this is not a prisoner exchange,” noting that Hamas kidnapped innocent civilians including women and children.

“These were war crimes, and I have zero expectations from [Hamas],” he said, reinforcing that the terror group was releasing innocent civilians, but that Israel was releasing Hamas militants.

“The mechanism was created as an incentive for Hamas to release more hostages,” Ezra said, “but Hamas is not a humanitarian organization … they are war criminals. We will continue to make sure after the cessation of fire that we continue pressing until they bring all the hostages back home.”

“We want to make sure there’s no ‘gratitude’ to Hamas,” Line said, helping Ezra elicit his point to her audience. “This never should have happened to begin with.”

Egypt, Qatar and the United States helped negotiate the ceasefire to create a window of opportunity to return the hostages and a moment of pause amid relentless fighting between the two sides.

Rep. Cory Mills from Florida’s 7th District, who also served in the U.S. Army in the Middle East, told Line that such exchanges are delicate with significant room for error.

“There’s a lot of things that could go wrong quickly, but I’m praying everything goes smoothly,” Mills said.

He added that based on his experience, he expects the hostages to be given a medical check-up, but will then be debriefed by Israeli forces so they can gain intelligence about other hostage locations.

“This way, if other hostage negotiations fails, at least they have this intelligence,” Mills explained. “That will all be determined once they do a final debrief.”

Fox News Correspondent Trey Yingst, who has been covering the war on the ground in Israel narrated the exchange for Line as she broadcasted from the network’s headquarters in New York.

“This is a bittersweet day for the Israeli people,” Yingst told Line just after 10 a.m. “They’ve been waiting seven weeks… the hostages were taken 49 days ago… The focus is on the hostages, making sure they have everything. Tomorrow they will face the sun for the first time weeks—if they were held underground.”

Yingst said that while Israel welcomed the return of hostages, their armed forces were on high alert, aware that the temporary truce could create a strategic or tactical disadvantage for the Israeli Defense Forces.

“This is a very dangerous time for the Israeli military,” he said. “They have to maintain a high alert… Hamas could use this time to ambush Israeli forces…”

He added that while the exchange process continue during the next few days, Israeli forces will continue to look for more Israeli hostages the moment the exchange is completed.

Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Thursday the hostage exchange between the Gaza-based Hamas terrorist group and Israeli would start Friday morning.

The Israeli government announced earlier this week that Hamas was willing to release up to 50 of its hostages in groups in exchange for a four-day truce, and that Tel Aviv had approved the deal.

Hamas could potentially release 30 more hostages after the initial four day exchange for another four-day pause, but that deal has not been finalized.

Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari said Thursday that while the ceasefire would begin at 7 a.m. the first group of hostages will not be released until 4 p.m. the same day.

The International Red Cross announced at 10 a.m. local time that the first group of hostages had crossed the border and were safely delivered into their care.

The war began on Oct. 7 after Hamas terrorists crossed into Southern Israel and slaughtered innocent civilians in border towns. It is believed they killed an estimated 1,400 people, 30 of whom were Americans, and took about 240 hostages.