Jerusalem – Israel’s military continued to attack the Gaza Strip on Thursday after a four-day ceasefire aimed at seeing the militant group Hamas release dozens of Israeli hostages in exchange for the release of 150 Palestinian prisoners.. About 10 U.S. citizens remain unaccounted for after Hamas’ brutal October 7 terror attack, some of whom are believed to be hostages, including a 3-year-old child. .
The Qatari government — which helped broker the hostage deal — said fighting would begin Friday at 7 a.m. local time (midnight EST), as Israeli-American families like Abigail’s say thanks for their loved ones’ early release. , and the first batch of 13 hostages will be released at 4pm – all of them women and children. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office confirmed to CBS News that it has received a preliminary list of names.
under, at least 50 hostages, many of them children, would be released in exchange for at least 150 Palestinian prisoners, and a four-day temporary ceasefire. Hundreds of trucks will head into the Gaza Strip carrying much-needed aid, including cooking oil and fuel.
Hamas is being encouraged to release more of the 236 captives Israel accuses it of seizing during its rampage across southern Israel that has seen the US-designated terror group kill some 1,200 people. Every 10 additional hostages released by Hamas would see Israel extend the temporary ceasefire by one day. If the deal is extended, more Palestinian prisoners will also be released, at the rate of three prisoners for every hostage held.
President Biden, who is spending Thanksgiving in Massachusetts, told reporters Thursday that he was “not ready to give you an update until it’s over.” He said he hoped to be able to say more on Friday.
In Israel, an anxious six-week wait will soon be over for some families of hostages.
Hadas Calderon told CBS News that her life was over and her “family was broken” the moment Hamas gunmen stormed their small farming community, Kibbutz Nir Oz, on Oct. 7 and kidnapped her daughter Sahar, 16, and her son Erez, 12.
Asked what she thought her children had been through since that day, Calderon said: “Hell! What they’re going through is hell… I want them to come back. [to] Heal them.”
As other American families set the tables for Thanksgiving dinner, a dining table was set up in central Tel Aviv with a seat for each of the 236 hostages Israel says are being held in Gaza.
The Palestinians must stop the Gaza war and release all prisoners
But with Israel’s military carrying out routine airstrikes and ground operations in Gaza — all of which it says are targeting the Palestinian territory’s longtime rulers Hamas or other extremist groups — the death toll is expected to exceed 13,000, besieged residents told CBS News. A four-day pause in fighting is not enough.
“We’ve lost thousands of people,” said a woman in Ramallah, the largest city in the other Palestinian territory, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. “If the war continues, we will lose everyone.”
The demonstrators want an end to the war altogether, and they want Israel to release all Palestinian prisoners. According to Palestinian prisoners’ rights groups, there are more than 200 Palestinian children and about 75 women in Israeli prisons.
Dozens of people have been arrested in the past few weeks alone, bringing the total number of Palestinians in Israeli jails to more than 7,000, according to prisoners’ rights advocates.
“Ultimately, I want freedom and I want freedom,” Zohara Baker, a Palestinian journalist and activist based in Jerusalem, told CBS News. “Palestinians deserve to be free.”
Samahar Aouad’s daughter Norhan is on Israel’s list of those who could be released from prison this week. He was arrested at the age of 15 for trying to stab an Israeli soldier. He has always denied the charge, but spent nine years in prison for it.
“The Israeli occupation stole her childhood, and I feel sad about that,” Aouad told CBS News. “No one can change her childhood.”
Israel has used the release of Palestinian prisoners for decades in negotiations with several Palestinian leaders.
In 2011, Hamas agreed to release kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.
Gershon Baskin, an Israeli hostage negotiator who helped secure the deal, told CBS News that the fact that the militants are getting just three prisoners for every hostage they release this time shows that Hamas is eager to hand over women, children and the elderly. The hostages it holds.
“They are a burden” to the Palestinian militant group, he said. “If they only have soldiers and soldiers, they will start demanding what they really want, which is the release of all Palestinian prisoners in Israel.”
Hamas has yet to make such a claim, and while Israel has not provided details on how many of the hostages are civilians and how many are soldiers, the militant group has never had the kind of influence it has now.
Meanwhile, with less than 24 hours until an expected pause in the fighting, Israel continues its stated mission: “to destroy Hamas.”
Asked Thursday if Israeli forces were trying to avoid complicating plans for a short ceasefire by reducing airstrikes on populated areas in Gaza, army spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht told reporters it was “business as usual.” They can also “intensify” in the interim, due to the possibility that operations may soon cease.