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24 hostages released as temporary cease-fire in Israel-Hamas war takes effect

Two dozen hostages released as cease-fire underway
Two dozen hostages released as Gaza cease-fire underway 04:01

The first group of hostages taken captive by Hamas in the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel were released from Gaza hours after the four-day cease-fire in the war between Israel and Hamas took effect Friday morning, officials said. More than three dozen Palestinians jailed in Israel were also released as part of the deal. 

Thirteen Israeli hostages were handed over by Hamas on Friday, the head of Israel's government press office confirmed to CBS News just after 5 p.m. local time. CBS News correspondent Lilia Luciano reported that Red Cross trucks appearing to carry freed Israeli hostages crossed the Gaza border into Egypt around 6 p.m. local time.

Released hostages in Israel. IDF Spokesperson, courtesy of the families

Qatar Foreign Ministry spokesman Dr. Majed Al-Ansari said on social media that in total, 24 hostages had been released. That includes the 13 Israeli hostages, 10 Thai hostages and one Filipino hostage. 

The Israeli Defense Forces said on social media just before 7 p.m. local time that the released hostages were on Israeli soil and had undergone initial medical assessments. IDF members accompanied the released hostages to hospitals where they will be reunited with their families. The IDF also shared a video of a bus carrying the freed hostages entering Israel. 

"We just completed the return of the first of our hostages: children, their mothers and additional women," said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday. "Each of them is an entire world. But I emphasize to you, the families, and to you, citizens of Israel: we are committed to returning all the hostages. This is one of the aims of the war and we are committed to achieving all the aims of the war."

CBS News contributor Robert Berger said the release had gone "smoothly." 

"It (was) a very dramatic moment and it seems to be unfolding as planned," Berger said. 

The released Israelis ranged in age from 2 to 85 and included several mothers and four children, the Israeli government said.

Released Israeli hostages. IDF Spokesperson, courtesy of the families

Netanyahu's office said in a Friday evening statement that Israeli intelligence had received a list of a second group of hostages due to be released Saturday "in continuation" of the cease-fire agreement. Those hostages' families have been notified, the prime minister's office said. 

The 10 Thai nationals were released around 4 p.m. local time. Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said on social media that Thai embassy officials were going to pick up the released hostages. The chairman of Egypt's State Information Service, Diaa Rashwan, said the release of the Thai nationals came after "intensive Egyptian efforts." 

Al-Ansari said the freeing of these hostages happened "as part of ongoing mediation, outside the framework of the agreement of the Humanitarian Pause" brokered by Qatar, Egypt, the U.S., Israel and Hamas. 

The International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed that it had "began carrying out a multi-day operation to facilitate the release and transfer of hostages held in Gaza and of Palestinian detainees to the West Bank." 

Israel-Hamas agree on temporary truce
A Red Cross vehicle, as part of a convoy believed to be carrying hostages abducted by Hamas militants during the October 7 attack on Israel, arrives at the Rafah border, amid a hostages-prisoners swap deal between Hamas and Israel, as seen from southern Gaza Strip November 24, 2023. IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA / REUTERS

Al-Ansari also said that 39 Palestinian women and children detained in Israeli jails were released Friday, "upholding the commitment of the first day of the agreement."   

Thousands gathered Friday in the occupied West Bank village of Beitunia to greet the freed Palestinian prisoners, 24 women and 15 teen boys.

Israel Prison Service Commissioner Katy Perry went to Israel's Damon prison to meet with its guards ahead of their release.

"This is our mission, for the sake of returning the kidnapped people home, and we will do it to the best of our abilities," Perry said in a statement.

The Red Cross oversaw the transfer of the prisoners, first to the West Bank's Ofer Prison, and then to Beitunia.

Israeli forces gathered outside Ofer Prison ahead of the exchange, where some Palestinians threw stones at Israeli soldiers. Cameras showed one Palestinian who was shot in the leg before being rushed into an ambulance. The Associated Press reported that journalists from their agency saw Palestinians waiting to greet the released prisoners had tear gas fired at them by the IDF. 

The releases are part of a deal that calls for Hamas to free at least 50 hostages and Israel to release 150 Palestinians from its prisons. Israel's military sounded alarms in several villages near Gaza just minutes after the short-term truce began Friday morning, warning of possible incoming rocket fire, but there was no immediate word of ongoing violence between Israeli forces and Hamas, leaving hope that the first hostage releases under the deal would still go forward later Friday.

The cease-fire got underway at 7 a.m. local time, which is midnight on the U.S. East Coast. The Israeli military did not make any official announcement at that time but said in a statement less than two hours later that it had "completed its operational preparations according to the combat lines of the pause."

Released Israeli hostages. IDF Spokesperson, courtesy of the families

A spokesperson stressed in a social media post just minutes after 7 a.m. local time that the suspension of hostilities was temporary, and "the war is not over yet." 

President Biden said Friday that he expected more hostages will be released Saturday, "and more the day after, and more the day after that." 

"It's only a start, but so far it's gone well," Mr. Biden said of Friday's hostage release, adding that "in the next hour or so we'll know what the second wave of releases are."

The U.S. does not know when the Americans held hostage would be released or all of their conditions, Mr. Biden said. 

"We don't know what the list of all the hostages are and when they'll be released, but we know the numbers that are going to be released," he said. "It is my hope and expectation it will be soon." 

Mr. Biden said he thought "the chances are real" for the temporary pause in the fighting to be extended and that he remains in contact with the leaders of Qatar, Egypt and Israel "to make sure this stays on track and every aspect of the deal is implemented."

When asked if he trusts Hamas to uphold its end of the deal, Mr. Biden said, "I don't trust Hamas to do anything right. I only trust Hamas to respond to pressure." 

Mr. Biden also acknowledged the trauma that the hostages have been though. 

"All these hostages have been through a terrible ordeal, and this is the beginning of a long journey of healing for them," he said. "The teddy bears waiting to greet those children at the hospital are a stark reminder of the trauma these children have been through, and at such a very young age." 

Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee warned that the northern Gaza Strip remained "a dangerous war zone and it is forbidden to move around" there, adding that people in the decimated Palestinian territory "must remain in the humanitarian zone in the south of the Strip" and only move toward that area on one designated road, adding that "the movement of residents from the south of the Strip to the north will not be allowed in any way."

Displaced Palestinians return to their homes as they pass by a house destroyed in an Israeli strike during the conflict, amid the temporary truce between Hamas and Israel, in Khan Younis
Displaced Palestinians leave to try to return to their homes, passing by a house destroyed in an earlier Israeli airstrike, during a short-term cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war, Nov. 24, 2023, in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip. MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS

Israeli troops open fire as displaced Palestinians try to go home

CBS News producer Marwan al-Ghoul saw Israeli forces opened fire Friday on Palestinians who decided to risk heading back to their homes in northern Gaza despite leaflets dropped by the IDF warning them against it. Al-Ghoul said thousands of displaced civilians left the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis to head back north, but when they reached a crossover point in central Gaza, they encountered a line of Israeli tanks and were fired on by Israeli forces. 

Israel's military told CBS News it was looking into reports that several people were injured in the encounter.  

Al-Ghoul said between 4,000 and 5,000 people had set off from Khan Younis, and some of them told CBS News they felt hopeless as nowhere in the Gaza Strip felt safe, and they just wanted to get back home.  

Video shot by CBS News showed panicked civilians running back away from the Israeli forces at the crossing point as machinegun fire was heard.

Hostage releases expected to continue through the weekend 

Under the terms of the deal brokered earlier this week with the help of the U.S., Egypt and Qatar, 50 hostages — all women and children who were kidnapped by Hamas militants during their Oct. 7 assault on southern Israel — will be freed in batches over four days. 

They are among an estimated 240 captives who are still believed to be held in Gaza. Three American hostages are expected to be among those 50, per a senior Biden administration official. 

In exchange for the hostages, the Israeli military agreed to the four-day pause in the war. The Israeli government said in a statement Tuesday that the release of "every 10 additional hostages" on top of those 50 "will result in one additional day in the pause."

Prior to Friday, only four Hamas hostages had been released, two Americans and two Israelis.

"Of course, our aim is for this deal to end with a lasting truce," said Majed Al-Ansari, a spokesperson for Qatar's foreign ministry, at a news conference Thursday. "Right now, of course, the confines of this deal are these four days that are subject to a second phase, and following phases of expanding the pause through the formula of getting more hostages out, and therefore getting more time for the parties. We are hoping that momentum will carry, and that we would find this would open the door for further and more deep negotiations towards an end to this violence."

In a message shared on social media, Israel's air force showed photos of a military transport plane ready to ferry the freed hostages, with empty seats holding ear covers, some for adults and others for children, to shield them from the noise of the aircraft. 

"Today is the beginning of the light at the end of the tunnel," the air force said in its post, calling it a "great privilege" to be in helping in "the important task of returning the abductees home."  

When asked by reporters Thursday whether the youngest American hostage, Abigail Mor Idan — whose fourth birthday is Friday — would soon be released, Mr. Biden responded: "fingers crossed." Both of Idan's parents were gunned down by Hamas. 

At kibbutz Nir Oz, Noam and Lior Peri knew their 79-year-old father Chaim would not be among the first hostages released.

"It is really hard to think how he's coping, how he's dealing with those, probably days and nights that he doesn't even know where he is, what time is it," Noam told CBS News.

 "I have huge faith that I will see him again," Lior added. 

Al Ansari said he expected the release of Palestinian prisoners to follow closely after that of the Gaza hostages. According to Palestinian prisoner rights' groups, there are an estimated 7,000 Palestinians currently jailed in Israel, including over 200 Palestinian children and about 75 women, with dozens arrested in the past few weeks alone. 

Samaher Aouad's daughter, Norhan, is on Israel's list of jailed Palestinians who might be freed as part of the deal. Norhan was arrested at age 15 for the attempted stabbing of an Israeli soldier nine years ago.
"The Israeli occupation stole her childhood and that's what I feel sad about," Aouwad told CBS News. "No one can replace her childhood."

Aid trucks started moving into Gaza within a couple hours of the cease-fire taking effect, through southern Gaza's Rafah crossing with Egypt. The Reuters news agency had a live camera position at the Rafah crossing that showed trucks carrying fuel moving through the border gate into Gaza. Israeli officials said on social media that 200 trucks carrying water, food, medical supplies and shelter equipment entered the Gaza Strip Friday morning. Four trucks of fuel and four tanks of cooking gas also entered the territory. 

Diaa Rashwan, chairman of Egypt's State Information Service, said in a statement early Friday morning that about 34,000 gallons of fuel would enter Gaza every day during the cease-fire, along with about 200 trucks carrying food, medicine and water. 

"The need is so great, that no matter how much aid you are going to bring in, there will be certainly more need for aid," Al-Ansari said in Qatar. 

The fighting in Gaza has been unrelenting since Hamas launched its bloody terror attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,200 people, most of them civilians, according to Israeli officials.

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry says almost 15,000 people have since been killed in Gaza by Israel's retaliatory ground incursion and airstrikes, and the U.N. estimates that 1.7 million of the enclave's roughly 2.3 million inhabitants have been displaced from their homes.

Imtiaz Tyab, Margaret Brennan, Khaled Wassef, Holly Williams, Lilia Luciano, Jordan Freiman and Kathryn Watson contributed to this report. 

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