On the first day of a four-day truce, 39 Palestinians were freed from Israeli prisons in Gaza, marking the end of weeks of death and despair. Under the terms of the truce, 50 women and children will be released over four days, in return for 150 Palestinian women and children among thousands of detainees in Israeli jails. Israel claims that the truce could be extended if more prisoners are released at a rate of 10 per day. However, in at least three cases, Israeli police raided their families’ homes in Jerusalem before the prisoners were released.

In Beitunia, a large crowd of young men greeted the freed prisoners by cheering, honking car horns, and marching in the street carrying Palestinian flags. More than 100 more Palestinian prisoners are due to be released over the coming four days, and more may be freed if the truce is extended.

Earlier, 24 prisoners were released by Hamas in Gaza, nine hours after guns fell silent for the first time in seven weeks. The two dozen prisoners included 13 Israelis, 10 Thai citizens, one Filipino, four children accompanied by four family members, and five other elderly women. They were transferred out of Gaza and handed over to Egyptian authorities at the Rafah border crossing.

The Israeli military said the freed prisoners had already been brought to Israel, where they underwent an initial medical assessment. A source briefed on the negotiations said the release of the Thai workers was unrelated to the truce negotiations and followed a separate track of talks with Hamas mediated by Egypt and Qatar. US President Joe Biden said Friday’s release of a first group of Hamas prisoners was just a “start” and that there were “real” chances to extend a temporary truce in Gaza.

By Malik

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