What we know about the hostages set for release in the Israel-Hamas deal
The Washington Post November 23, 2023
A hostage release deal between Israel and Hamas will involve the return of 50 hostages, who are among the estimated 240 held captive by Hamas and possibly other groups in Gaza, in exchange for the release of 150 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, plus a four-day pause in fighting.
The agreement, announced Wednesday, was the result of weeks of tense negotiations that involved mediation by Qatar. President Joe Biden said in a statement welcoming the deal that he would continue to push for the release of all American hostages.
Israeli National Security Council Director Tzachi Hanegbi said talks were continuing and that the release would not begin before Friday.
Here’s what we know about the release of hostages from Gaza.
At least 50 hostages — women and children — will be released during a four-day pause in fighting, the Israeli government said Wednesday.
In turn, Israel will release 150 Palestinian prisoners — women and teenagers, three for each hostage. The pause in fighting could be extended by a day for every additional 10 hostages released by Hamas from Gaza after the first group of 50.
Three Americans — two women and a girl — are expected to be released under the present agreement, a senior Biden administration official told The Washington Post.
The hostages are likely to be transferred to the International Committee of the Red Cross in small numbers in Gaza who will escort them to Israeli border crossings.
In Israel, six hospitals have been readied to receive the hostages with a special pediatrics unit and mental health counselors. The hostages and their families will be housed in dedicated facilities, and the hospitals would be barred from releasing information or photographs to the public, the Israeli Ministry of Health said.
Who are the hostages being released?
The names of the 50 hostages expected to be released have not been shared.
The estimated 240 people held in Gaza are from a plurality of countries, many also with Israeli citizenship. About 20 Thai workers were among those taken, the Thai Foreign Ministry said. They are hoped to be among the first released, it said Nov. 2, after talks with Iran, Egypt and Qatar before the hostage release deal. Not all hostages are believed to be held by Hamas; smaller militant groups such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad are potentially in control of some.
After the initial captives exchange is completed, there will still be about 190 remaining hostages in Gaza, though the deal leaves open the possibility of further exchanges. Israeli and U.S. officials believe there are at least another 25, and perhaps another 50 or more, women and children among the hostages, with the remaining including male civilians, female Israeli soldiers, and up to several dozen male members of the Israel Defense Forces, The Post reported Wednesday. Hamas has claimed that some hostages were killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza, but verifying that information has not been possible.
Were other hostages released earlier?
Four hostages have been released by Hamas since the beginning of the war, in two batches of two about a month ago.
On Oct. 20, Americans Judith Raanan, 59, and her daughter Natalie, 17, were released. Hamas said that this was due to “humanitarian reasons,” without elaborating further. They had been staying with relatives at the Nahal Oz, a kibbutz near the border with Gaza, when they were taken captive during Hamas’ unprecedented attack Oct. 7 that killed at least 1,200 in Israel. More than 11,100 have since been killed in Gaza, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which stopped releasing a count from Nov. 10 on, citing the intensity of the fighting.
On Oct. 23, Yocheved Lifshitz and Nurit Cooper, Israeli women in their 70s and 80s, were released, for “crushing humanitarian reasons,” Hamas said. Their husbands remain in captivity.
How many American hostages are there?
At least nine Americans and one legal permanent resident are believed to be among those held in Gaza, The Post reported previously. One is a 3-year-old child whose parents were killed in the Oct. 7 attack.
Biden said that Americans would be among those freed under the newly announced deal. “Today’s deal should bring home additional American hostages, and I will not stop until they are all released,” he said in his statement Wednesday.
Steve Hendrix contributed to this report.