KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip — Hamas released 13 Israelis and four foreigners late Saturday in the second round of swaps under a cease-fire deal, the Israeli military said, after the terrorist group initially delayed the exchange for several hours and claimed that Israel had violated the terms of a truce deal.
Shortly after midnight, the Israeli military said the released hostages, including four Thais, had been transferred to Israel. They were being taken to hospitals for observation and to be reunited with their families.
Israel was to free 39 Palestinian Arabs later Saturday as part of the deal that ultimately went through after international mediation efforts.
The Israeli hostages released Saturday by Hamas included seven children and six women, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office announced. Most of the released hostages were from Kibbutz Be’eri, a community Hamas militants ravaged during their October 7 cross-border attack, a spokesperson for the kibbutz said. The children ranged in age from three to 16, and the women ranged from between 18 and 67.
It was a bittersweet moment for the residents of Be’eri. A kibbutz spokesman said all the released hostages either had a family member killed in the October 7 rampage or had left a loved one in captivity in Gaza.
The mother of one of the released hostages, 12-year-old Hila Rotem, remained in captivity, the spokesman said.
Another, Emily Hand, is a girl whose father believed her to be dead for weeks before finding out she was held as a hostage.
The last-minute delay had created a tense standoff on the second day of what’s meant to be a four-day cease-fire. By nightfall, as the hostages should have emerged from Gaza, Hamas alleged that the deliveries of supplies permitted by Israel fell short of what was promised and that not enough of it was reaching northern Gaza — the focus of Israel’s ground offensive and main combat zone.
Hamas had also said not enough veteran prisoners were freed in the first swap on Friday. “This is putting the deal in danger,” a senior Hamas official, Osama Hamdan, said in Beirut. Egypt, Qatar, and Hamas later said obstacles had been overcome.
A Qatari delegation arrived in Israel on Saturday to coordinate with parties on the ground and “ensure the deal continues to move smoothly,” according to a diplomat briefed on the visit.