Hamas releases 13 Israeli hostages, 11 others as cease-fire holds
On Monday, Hamas released 13 Israeli hostages and 11 others in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. The deal was brokered between the two sides as part of an agreement that ended a recent conflict between them. The prisoners were released in separate groups and taken to unofficial checkpoints along the Gaza-Israel border. The exchange follows a cease-fire deal that was reached after 11 days of intense fighting between the two sides.
The Israeli hostages released on Monday include several civilians, as well as some members of the military. Some of the released prisoners are reportedly the longest-held prisoners in Gaza, having been taken into custody since at least 2012. The 11 Palestinians released were also held in Israeli jails since 2012.
The exchange marks an important step towards improving relations between the two sides. After the cease-fire was announced last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh expressed desire to reach a long-term agreement. Meanwhile, the United Nations has congratulated both sides on reaching the cease-fire, praising them for putting the safety of civilians first and foremost.
It is unclear if the latest prisoner exchange is a one-off or part of a larger effort to improve ties between Israel and Hamas. While some progress has been made, it remains to be seen if the two sides can find common ground on major issues like the easing of the blockade on Gaza and the establishment of a long-term peace agreement.