Hamas releases 11 more hostages; Israel frees 33 Palestinians prisoners

(Photo: Unsplash/CHUTTERSNAP)

Hamas has released 11 more hostages as part of a multi-day agreement made with Israel in return for Palestinians serving time in Israeli prison for security offenses. 

Majed al-Ansari, the foreign ministry spokesperson for Qatar, one of the countries involved in mediating negotiations between Israel and Hamas, announced Monday that 33 Palestinians detained in Israel had been released in exchange for 11 hostages taken by Hamas during the terror group's Oct. 7 surprise attack in southern Israel. 

The releases come on the fourth day of the humanitarian truce agreement reached by both sides last week after more than seven weeks of fighting sparked by the Hamas attack that killed over 1,200 people, mostly civilians and 31 Americans. Over 240 people were abducted. 

In response, Israel launched airstrikes and a ground offensive in Gaza, seeking to free the hostages and eradicate Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007. The Hamas-led Gaza Health Ministry says that over 13,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the war began. 

"Those released from Israeli prisons include 30 minors and 3 women, while the Israelis released from Gaza include 3 French citizens, 2 German citizens, and 6 Argentinian citizens, were handed over to the ICRC," al-Ansari said. 

Al-Ansari announced earlier on Monday that both sides agreed to extend the four-day ceasefire an additional two days. As part of the agreement, Hamas agreed to release 10 hostages on Tuesday and 10 more on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Israel agreed to release 30 prisoners each day.

The 11 Israeli hostages released Monday include two women and nine children who had been held for over 50 days by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, according to The Times of Israel

The 33 Palestinian prisoners released Monday had been charged with various criminal offenses, of which three were women and 30 were minors, reports Reuters.

The Monday exchange marked the last of the initial four-day ceasefire made between the two sides to allow for the exchange of prisoners and hostages, as well as trucks of humanitarian aid, to enter Gaza.

While part of the agreement reportedly involved releasing family members together, Hamas was accused of violating the deal when it released 12-year-old Hila Rotem Shoshani on Saturday but has reportedly kept her mother hostage.

"Hila is returning home without her mother, Raya [Rotem], who remains in captivity. Hamas grossly violated the agreement and separated mother and daughter," Kibbutz Be'eri, a community in which 13 people had been taken hostage, said in a statement, according to the Jewish News Syndicate.

"Three children from two families from the kibbutz were torn from their only remaining parent."

Last week, it was announced that Hamas and Israel agreed to a four-day truce in which 50 hostages would be freed in return for the release of 150 Palestinian prisoners, as well as the allowing of humanitarian aid to enter Gaza to help civilians impacted by the fighting.

At a White House press briefing held Monday, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said the Biden administration "welcome[s] the announcement" of an extension on the ceasefire.

"This humanitarian pause has already brought a halt to the fighting, together with a surge of humanitarian assistance," Kirby continued. "We would, of course, hope to see the pause extended further and that will depend on Hamas continuing to release hostages."

Kirby said President Joe Biden has been "deeply engaged" in the mediation process, having spoken with multiple parties to ensure the truce agreement is fulfilled.