Eight Israeli hostages were released from Hamas captivity Thursday in the Gaza Strip as part of a temporary cease-fire deal that has lasted seven days, the Israeli military said.
Israel freed 30 Palestinian prisoners in the early hours of Friday under the truce deal, which has paused the deadliest fighting in decades between Israel and Palestinians.
International pressure has mounted for the truce to be upheld as long as possible after weeks of Israeli bombardment and a ground campaign following Hamas’ deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israel that triggered the war.
Thousands of Palestinians in Gaza have been killed by Israel, and more than three-quarters of the population of 2.3 million have been uprooted, leading to a humanitarian crisis.
Israel has vowed to resume the fighting — with the goal of dismantling Hamas — once the cease-fire ends.
— Wartime Israel shows little tolerance for Palestinian dissent.
— Blinken urges Israel to comply with international law and spare civilians.
— A friendship forged over 7 weeks of captivity lives on as freed women are reunited.
— Families reunite with 17 Thai hostages freed by Hamas.
— Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.
Here’s what’s happening in the war:
MORE HOSTAGES ARE RELEASED BY HAMAS
Mia Schem was released Thursday from captivity in Gaza on Thursday. The 21-year-old French Israeli woman was shown with a badly bruised arm being bandaged up while being held hostage in a video released by Hamas after its deadly rampage in southern Israel on Oct. 7.
Also freed were Bilal Alziadana, 18, and his sister, Aisha, 17. The two are members of Israel’s Bedouin Arab community and had accompanied their father on Oct. 7 to work on a dairy farm on a kibbutz, according to the Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum, a grassroots group representing families of hostages. It said their father and an older brother remain in captivity.
In what has become a daily ritual, Hamas also released a video showing the hostages being turned over to the Red Cross by militants. In one scene, masked gunmen escorted two hostages to waiting vehicles as crowds of onlookers shouted and whistled at them.
ISRAEL RELEASES 30 MORE PALESTINIAN PRISONERS
A busload of 30 Palestinian prisoners released by Israel has been welcomed home in the West Bank.
The bus arrived early Friday in the city of Ramallah, hours after Hamas militants released eight Israeli hostages after eight weeks of captivity in the Gaza Strip.
Dozens of men, some holding green Hamas flags, greeted the prisoners. The men were hugged and the crowd chanted, “God is great.”
The exchanges have been taking place nightly since Nov. 24 as part of a cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas. The cease-fire is set to expire Friday, but international mediators are working to extend it by at least another day. Israel has vowed to resume its offensive against Hamas in Gaza once the truce ends.
SIX MORE HOSTAGES ARE BACK IN ISRAEL AFTER RELEASE FROM GAZA
JERUSALEM — Hamas has freed six of Israeli hostages held in Gaza on Thursday evening, Israel’s military said, hours after releasing two Israeli women.
The Red Cross in Gaza has taken all the freed hostages into Israel, where they were going to hospitals and would be reunited with their families, according to the Israeli military.
At least 10 Israelis a day, along with other nationals, have been released during the truce, in return for Israel’s release of at least 30 Palestinian prisoners.
Asked why Hamas was releasing fewer than the 10 hostages a day outlined in the cease-fire agreement, the Israeli military’s chief spokesperson noted that 12 Israeli citizens had been released the day before, implying that the overall total had met Israeli demands.
“We insist on the maximum each day,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said.
BLINKEN CALLS ON ISRAEL TO FOLLOW INTERNATIONAL LAW IN WAR
TEL AVIV, Israel — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stepped up calls for Israel to comply with international law and spare civilians as it wages its war against Hamas in Gaza.
Blinken, who met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top officials on his third visit to the region since the start of the war, said he hoped the cease-fire could be extended and more hostages could be released.
Blinken also said that if Israel resumes the war and moves against southern Gaza to pursue Hamas, it must do so in “compliance with international humanitarian law” and must have “a clear plan in place” to protect civilians.
He said Israeli leaders understood that ”the massive levels of civilian life and displacement scale we saw in the north not be repeated in the south.”
WHITE HOUSE CONDEMNS JERUSALEM SHOOTING BY HAMAS
WASHINGTON — The White House condemned Thursday’s deadly attack by two Palestinian gunmen on people waiting for buses along a main highway entering Jerusalem, saying the attack was “stark reminder” of the enemy Israel is facing.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the attack, which Hamas claimed responsibility for, “technically” didn’t violate the terms of the ongoing truce between Israel and Hamas, which only covers Gaza.
“I mean, if anybody’s guessing and wondering whether Hamas still has murderous intentions against the Israeli people, just look at what happened in Jerusalem today,” Kirby said.
Kirby also expressed hope that the truce, which was extended for a seventh day on Thursday, will be extended again.
“We’re working on it literally by the hour to see if we can get this seventh day turned into an eighth and ninth and 10th and beyond,” he said.