Hamas on Friday released 24 hostages, including 13 Israeli women and children, the Israeli government said, as a four-day cease-fire with the militant group began in the Gaza Strip.

The hostages, from around 240 held in Gaza, were taken to Egypt before arriving in Israel. The Qatari government, which mediated the truce, said that in addition to the 13 Israelis, aged 2 to 85, Hamas had released 10 Thai nationals and a Filipino under a separate deal.

"We just completed the return of the first batch of our hostages," said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement, while stressing, "We are committed to the return of all our hostages."

An International Red Cross vehicle carrying released Palestinian prisoners arrives in Ramallah in the West Bank on Nov. 24, 2023. (Getty/Kyodo)

Israel released 39 Palestinian women and teenagers who were being held in prison, Qatar's Foreign Ministry said on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

The hostages were taken when Hamas launched a surprise attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7, sparking an Israeli air and ground assault on the Gaza Strip.

U.S. President Joe Biden said Friday there was a "real" chance that the cease-fire could be extended.

The hostages freed by Hamas were taken to hospitals in and around Tel Aviv and were reunited with their families, according to local media.

The Thai nationals, believed to be agricultural workers, will return home after undergoing medical checks.

Under the deal, Hamas will release 50 hostages, while Israel will free 150 Palestinian prisoners. Hamas is expected to hand over around a dozen hostages on each of the four days of the cease-fire.

The Israeli government has offered an incentive to Hamas to release more, saying it will extend the cease-fire by one day for every 10 additional hostages released by Hamas.

Israel has said the attack by Hamas killed 1,200 people, while Israel's assault has left over 14,800 dead, according to Gaza health authorities.


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