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What we know about the hostages set for release in the Israel-Hamas deal

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An agreement between Israel and Hamas is expected to produce the return of 50 Israeli hostages, who are among the more than 200 people estimated to be held captive by Hamas in Gaza. In exchange for the release of the hostages, Israel is set to release 150 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, and maintain a four-day pause in fighting.

The agreement, announced Wednesday, was the result of weeks of tense negotiations that involved mediation by Qatar. The pause began Friday at 7 a.m. local time, with the first group of hostages released later in the day.

What is Hamas, and why did it attack Israel now?

Here’s what we know about the release of hostages from Gaza.

  • The first group of Israeli hostages — 13 women and children — were released Friday afternoon. Under the agreement, at least 50 hostages — women and children — will be released during the four-day pause in fighting.
  • In turn, Israel agreed to release 150 Palestinian prisoners — women and teenagers — or three for each Israeli hostage.
  • 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 released Friday were transferred to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which escorted them to the border between Gaza and Egypt.
  • 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 Palestinian prisoners Israel is prepared to release?

Who are the hostages being released?

Israel on Friday released a list of the 13 Israelis released in the first group. They were women and children — the youngest released is 2 years old; the oldest is 85. Four of them were German citizens, Germany’s foreign minister said.

The estimated 240 people held in Gaza are from a plurality of countries, many also with Israeli citizenship. Some 26 Thai workers were among those taken, the Thai Foreign Ministry said. Ten Thai nationals and one Philippine national were released Friday separately from the Israeli hostages, according to Qatar, Egypt and Israel. The ICRC said it facilitated the release of the 11 foreign nationals. Thailand had earlier said that 12 Thai nationals were released, but later said it was verifying the figures with consular officials who were set to greet the freed hostages at an Israeli hospital.

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 exchanges are completed, there will still be about 190 remaining hostages in Gaza, though the deal leaves open the possibility of further exchanges. The pause in fighting could be extended by a day for every additional 10 hostages released by Hamas from Gaza after the first 50.

The ICRC said Friday that it had facilitated the transfer of 33 Palestinians who were detained in Israeli prisons — six less than the deal’s terms of three prisoners per each Israeli hostage freed. Majed Al Ansari, a spokesperson for Qatar’s foreign ministry, had said Friday that 39 prisoners were freed. The reasons for the discrepancy were not immediately clear.

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.

Why are Israel and Hamas at war? A basic explainer.

Were other hostages released earlier?

Four hostages have been released by Hamas since the beginning of the war, in two batches of two last month.

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’s unprecedented attack Oct. 7 that killed at least 1,200 in Israel. More than 13,300 people have been killed in Gaza since the start of the war and 35,180 wounded, the Gaza Health Ministry said Thursday, adding that the number did not include figures from two major hospitals.

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 4-year-old whose parents were killed in the Oct. 7 attack.

President Biden said Friday after the first hostages were released — Americans not among them — that he did not know when the American hostages would be released, but that “my hope and expectation is it will be soon.”

Steve Hendrix contributed to this report.

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