More Gaza hostages, Palestinian inmates freed on fifth day of truce

Another 12 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza have returned to Israel via Egypt, the Israel Defense Forces said on Tuesday.

This occurred as the temporary truce in the Gaza war appeared to hold amid reports of an exchange of fire between the two sides.

According to the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the latest group of freed hostages comprises 10 Israelis and two Thai nationals.

Among the Israeli nationals are senior female citizens – one in her 80s and a 17-year-old teenager, released together with her mother.

One of the released hostages also holds German citizenship, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on X, formerly Twitter.

This puts the total number of hostages released from Gaza since the beginning of a breakthrough truce agreement between Israel and the Palestinian extremist organisation Hamas on Friday at 81, including 61 Israeli nationals.

In return for the group released from Gaza on Tuesday, 30 Palestinian prisoners were released from different Israeli jails on Tuesday evening, according to the Israeli prison authority.

Among them were 15 women, some of them minors, and 15 male minors, the youngest being 14 years old.

In total, 180 Palestinian prisoners have been released from Israeli prisons since the beginning of the temporary ceasefire negotiated by Qatar and Egypt last week.

In return, Hamas has released a total of 81 hostages, including 61 Israelis.

One male Israeli, who also has Russian citizenship, was released on Monday evening as a gesture of goodwill to Russia, with no Palestinians being released in return.

Some 240 people had been abducted into the Gaza Strip amid the October 7 terrorist attacks on southern Israel by Hamas and other militant groups.

The pause in fighting, which came into effect on Friday and initially set to last four days, has been extended by another two days under the previously negotiated conditions.

It is unclear whether it can be extended further. The agreement has also facilitated the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.

In spite of the ongoing truce, an exchange of fire between Israel and Hamas was reported in the north of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, according to the Israel army. Israeli soldiers were reportedly shot at and returned fire.

In addition, a total of three explosive devices exploded next to soldiers at two locations.

This meant that the framework of the ceasefire had been “violated,” the IDF said. According to the army, several soldiers sustained slight injuries.

The soldiers were at the locations agreed upon as part of the ceasefire. Hamas confirmed a confrontation with the Israeli army.

The group charged that Israel had violated the truce in the north of the Gaza Strip.

However, Hamas emphasised that it would continue to feel bound to the agreement as long as Israel also felt committed.

Hamas called on mediators Qatar and Egypt to put pressure on Israel to respect the ceasefire.

Netanyahu meanwhile reiterated Israel’s commitment to continue its military campaign in Gaza to destroy Hamas once the truce agreement runs out.

In an interview with German broadcaster Welt TV published on Tuesday, the premier did not comment on how long the deal could be extended.

“We agreed that women and children as well as the foreign hostages would be released first,” Netanyahu said in the interview, conducted in English and later translated by Welt TV into German. “After that has happened, we will continue the fighting,” he added.

Hamas, who took power in Gaza by force in 2007, had committed the worst murders, Netanyahu said, referring to the brutal October 7 attacks committed by Hamas fighters and other groups from Gaza on Israeli border communities in which some 1,200 people were killed.

“We have absolutely no choice but to destroy Hamas,” Netanyahu said in view of the massacre.

Israel would continue to do everything in its power to spare civilians in the Gaza Strip as much as possible, he said.

However, according to Hamas, almost 15,000 people have already been killed and around 36,000 injured amid Israel’s military campaign in Gaza triggered by the October 7 attacks.

A further 7,000 inhabitants of the densely populated coastal area are considered missing.

The numbers cannot currently be independently verified.