RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Hamas on Friday released 24 hostages who had been held captive in Gaza for weeks, and Israel freed 39 Palestinians from prison in the first stage of a swap under a four-day cease-fire deal.
The freed hostages included 13 Israelis, 10 people from Thailand and one from the Philippines, according to Qatar.
The agreement opened the way for sorely needed aid to flow into Gaza for beleaguered residents. It was also a moment of hope for families in Israel and elsewhere worried about loved ones taken captive during Hamas' Oct. 7 attack, which triggered the war.
With the truce's start Friday morning, Gaza's 2.3 million Palestinians saw quiet for the first time after seven weeks of relentless Israeli bombardment, which has killed thousands, driven three-quarters of the population from their homes and flattened vast swaths of residential areas. Rocket fire from Gaza militants into Israel went silent as well.
The freed Israeli hostages included eight women — six of them in their 70s and 80s — and three children. Their release was followed in the evening by the freeing of the Palestinian prisoners — 24 women, including some convicted of attempted murder for attacks on Israeli forces, and 15 teenagers jailed for offenses like throwing stones.
But joy at the deal has been tempered — among Israelis by the fact that not all hostages will be freed and among Palestinians by the briefness…