Red Cross starts 'multi-day' operation for Gaza hostages, Palestinian detainees

Red Cross starts 'multi-day' operation for Gaza hostages, Palestinian detainees
The ICRC said it had begun a multi-day operation to facilitate the swap of Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails for Israeli hostages held by Hamas and other groups in Gaza.
3 min read
24 November, 2023
The Red Cross facilitated the transfer of Israeli hostages from Gaza [Getty]

The Red Cross said it began on Friday a multi-day operation to reunite hostages and detainees with their families in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

"Teams from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Friday 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," the organisation said.

A total of 24 hostages - 13 Israelis, 10 Thais and a Filipino, were turned over Friday to the ICRC in Gaza by Hamas, while Israel freed 39 women and children held in its prisons, the Qatari foreign ministry said.

"We are relieved to confirm the safe release of 24 hostages," the ICRC posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. "We have facilitated this release by transporting them from Gaza to the Rafah border."

A convoy of ICRC vehicles was seen crossing the Rafah border from the Gaza Strip into Egypt, as a temporary truce took hold following weeks of fighting.

The ICRC said it was not involved in the negotiations to release the hostages and stressed its role was purely to facilitate the agreement.

The ICRC also said it would bring in "additional medical supplies" to be delivered to hospitals in Gaza.

"The deep pain that family members separated from their loved ones feel is indescribable. We are relieved that some will be reunited after long agony," said Fabrizio Carboni, the ICRC's Near and Middle East regional director.

"Our deep desire is for all hostages to be released, and that civilians be shielded from the pain and suffering that armed conflict brings."

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Hamas broke through Gaza's militarised border with Israel on October 7 to kill about 1,200 people and seize around 240 Israeli and foreign hostages, according to Israeli officials.

Israel's indiscriminate air, artillery and naval strikes on Gaza alongside a ground offensive have killed about 15,000 people and targeted schools, hospitals, and residential buildings.

At the end of October, the ICRC also facilitated the release of four hostages held in Gaza.

During the four-day truce that began Friday, at least 50 hostages are expected to be freed, leaving an estimated 190 in the hands of Palestinian groups.

In exchange, 150 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are expected to be released. Israel has detained about 3,000 West Bank Palestinians since October 7. These are in addition to around 4,000 it already held.

The ICRC said that all hostages and detainees must be treated with humanity, and that humanitarian principles had to be respected at all times, including during the releases and transfers.