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A Red Cross vehicle carries hostages abducted by Hamas militants during the October 7 attack on Israel and released on November 24 (OSV News photo/Reuters TV)

The fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is back on track as the militants freed 17 more hostages, including 14 Israelis and the first American, in a third set of releases under a four-day truce. Source: The Age.

The hostages ranged in age from four to 84 and included Abigail Edan, a four-year-old girl whose parents were killed in the Hamas attack that started the war on October 7.

Israel’s prison service later said it had begun the process of releasing 39 Palestinian prisoners. A convoy of vehicles was seen leaving Ofer military prison in the occupied West Bank.

A fourth exchange is expected on Monday (Gaza time) — the last day of the ceasefire during which a total of 50 hostages and 150 Palestinian prisoners are to be freed. All are women and children.

Hamas has said for the first time said it would seek to extend the deal by looking to release a larger number of hostages. The IDF said it was open to extending the ceasefire if more hostages are released. Israel earlier said the truce can be extended by an extra day for every additional 10 hostages freed, but has vowed to quickly resume its offensive once it ends.

The third release followed a second prisoner-hostage exchange on Saturday night that risked being derailed when Hamas’s armed wing claimed that Israel had failed to meet all truce conditions, including committing to letting aid trucks into northern Gaza.

COGAT, the Israeli agency for civilian co-ordination with the Palestinians, accused Hamas of delaying the trucks trying to deliver humanitarian aid to northern Gaza at a checkpoint.

The killing of a Palestinian farmer by Israeli forces in the central Gaza Strip had earlier added to concerns over the fragility of the truce.


 Third hostage-prisoner exchange takes place during fragile Gaza truce (Reuters, AP via The Age)