HAMAS hostages are finally being released following nearly 50 days of captivity in Gaza and will soon be reunited with their families.
The first group of 13 women and children have now safely crossed into Egypt after being escorted out of Gaza by the Red Cross, said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The convoy entering the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt is believed to have contained at least four vehicles with up to six people sitting in the rear.
People danced and sang in the streets of Israel as they celebrated the news of their release.
Hundreds had gathered at the Rafah crossing point earlier today in anxious anticipation.
It was unknown what kind of condition the women and children would be in after spending seven weeks in the terrorists’ lair.
More on the hostage release
They would likely be unaware of the atrocities that have unfolded since their capture and whether any of their loved ones have been killed in the ongoing conflict.
No British hostages were released today, according to Sky News.
Those freed are now being taken to the Hatzerim airbase in southern Israel where they will undergo a short physical and mental checkup before being taken to hospital, where their families are waiting.
Any hostages in need of urgent medical attention will be taken straight from the border to a hospital.
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It comes after Israel unveiled its heartbreaking rescue centre where it planned to take the freed women and children in a special operation dubbed “Heaven’s Door”.
There were no reports of fighting after the truce began.
The terror group agreed to free at least 50 of the 240 hostages it snatched on October 7 in return for 150 Palestinian prisoners.
Israel will release 24 women and 15 teenage boys from its jails today in exchange for the 13 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, a Palestinian official said.
Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin revealed on Friday afternoon that 12 Thai hostages held by Hamas had already been released.
He wrote on X, formerly Twitter: “It has been confirmed by the Security Department and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that There are 12 Thai hostages already released.
“Embassy officials are on their way to pick them up in another hour. Their names and details should be known. Please stay tuned.”
Shocking CCTV footage last week released by Israel appeared to show Hamas terrorists drag a Thai civilian, among other hostages, into Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital where Israel claims the terrorists are based.
A list of the hostages set to be released by Hamas in the coming days includes Irish-Israeli nine-year-old Emily Hand.
Her shattered dad Thomas Hand, 63, broke down earlier this week saying his little girl must be thinking: “Where’s my daddy, why didn’t he come to save me?”
Emily was snatched from bed during a sleepover at a friend’s house in Be’eri Kibbutz and taken to Gaza on October 7.
An update from Sky News this afternoon said no British hostages would be released today.
Americans were also not among the first 13 released, claims CNN.
Israel Defence Forces spokesman Daniel Hagari said earlier today: “In the past day, the IDF completed its preparation for the reception of the abductees who returned to Israel from the Gaza Strip.
“As part of the preparation, the IDF set up and trained initial reception points, where a medical envelope will be provided if required and escort [hostages].
“After that, the returnees will continue to the hospitals where they will meet with their families.”
Videos of the reception point showed boxes of items including underwear, baby wipes, blankets, and sanitary products, tables and chairs and beanbags, and large buffet-style dishes of hot food – as well as teddy bears, colouring-in books, soccer balls, and stickers for the tiniest of the hostages.
The operation will see hostages including children brought by the IDF to the Hatzerim airbase in southern Israel where they will undergo a short physical and mental checkup.
Families of the released hostages are waiting at the hospitals, with hotel rooms reserved for them in the area.
The “Heaven’s Door” process will be repeated over thefour days as the rest of the 50 hostages are released from Hamas captivity.