Thirty-three Palestinians – 30 children and three women – have been released from Israeli jails following the freeing of 11 Israeli hostages from Gaza.
The Israel Prison Service said the prisoners were released from Israel’s Ofer prison in the West Bank and from a detention centre in Jerusalem, bringing the total number of Palestinians it has freed since Friday to 150.
Footage posted on Twitter showed crowds of Palestinians greeting the former prisoners as they arrived in the West Bank.
In East Jerusalem, 17-year-old Muhammad Abu al-Humus called his release “an indescribable joy” and kissed his mother’s hand as he entered his home.
Other footage showed former child prisoners joyfully reuniting with their families.
Al Jazeera reports that 100 humanitarian aid trucks entered northern Gaza today. It quotes Mohamed Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesperson for the UN Palestinian refugee organisation UNRWA, as saying:
At Nuseirat refugee camp in Gaza, people are lining up at the last working petrol station. Aid trucks are supposed to deliver gas to this station as people are using wood for cooking and keeping warm. Ambulances are also lined up hoping to fill up.
The ceasefire has allowed residents who remained in Gaza City and other parts of the north to venture out to survey the destruction and try to locate and bury relatives. Footage from northern Gaza, the focus of the Israeli ground offensive, shows nearly every building damaged or destroyed.
Associated Press reports that a UN-led aid consortium estimates that more than 234,000 homes have been damaged across Gaza and 46,000 have been destroyed, amounting to about 60% of the housing stock. In the north, the destruction of homes and civilian infrastructure “severely compromises the ability to meet basic requirements to sustain life”, it said.
More than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed since the war began, roughly two-thirds of them women and minors, according to the health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza
That number does not differentiate between civilians and combatants, and has not been independently verified by journalists. The health ministry has only been able to sporadically update its count since 11 November, due to the breakdown of the health sector in the north. It also says thousands of people are missing and feared trapped or dead under the rubble.
The French helicopter carrier Dixmude has docked in Egypt and could start to be used for treating wounded children from Gaza later this week, the French defence minister, Sébastien Lecornu, said on Tuesday.
“We have this ship, which has been transformed into a hospital and which arrived yesterday. It has 40 beds,” Lecornu told Europe 1 radio, Reuters reports. He said he hoped it could start receiving patients this week.
The Dixmude’s medical capacities have been adapted to create a military-civilian medical force, notably in paediatrics. With two operating theatres and 40 beds, the team could treat people with light injuries before they are moved to hospitals on the ground.
Paris has made available, if necessary, 50 beds in France for gravely wounded and sick children from Gaza, which could include cancer patients.
Lebanon’s state news agency has reported that an Israeli shell hit near the southern Lebanese town of Aita al-Shaab.
Reuters notes that while the truce deal does not formally include Lebanon or Hezbollah, weeks of shelling across the UN-drawn blue line that separates Lebanon and Israel had halted after the pause of fighting in Gaza was declared.
The office of Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has announced that Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, will not be visiting Ankara as expected today. AFP reports that no reason was given for the change of plans. The two leaders are said to have spoken on the phone on Sunday.
Monday’s releases bring to 51 the number of Israelis freed under the truce, along with 19 hostages of other nationalities. So far, 150 Palestinians have been released from Israeli prisons.
Associated Press reports that most of the hostages freed so far have appeared to be physically well. However, Elma Avraham, 84, was airlifted to an Israeli hospital in a life-threatening condition because of inadequate care, and Maya Regev, seized from the Supernova music festival, was seen walking on crutches on her release, with doctors saying she would require unspecified surgery.
The Palestinian detainees released so far have been mostly teenagers accused of throwing stones and firebombs during confrontations with Israeli forces, though some, such as Misoun Mussa and Israa Jaabis, were convicted by Israel of terrorism offences.
France’s foreign minister, Catherine Colonna, on Tuesday welcomed news that three young French children were among the hostages released by Hamas on Monday, saying they were in good health.
“We have indirect news and that news is good … It is a great, great relief,” Colonna told RTL radio, Reuters reports.
“Three French children were finally freed, now we must work relentlessly for the release of all the other hostages,” she said, adding that five French nationals were still missing or believed to be held hostage.
The released children have been named as Eitan Yahalomi, 12, and siblings Sahar, 16, and Erez Calderon, 12. Fathers Ofer Calderon and Ohad Yahalomi are believed still to be held in Gaza.
A relative of the Calderons, Ido Dan, has been quoted by Reuters speaking of the joy at their release being mixed with anxiety about their father.
“It is difficult to go from a state of endless anxiety about their fate to a state of relief and joy,” Dan said. “This is an exciting and heart-filling moment but … it is the beginning of a difficult rehabilitation process for Sahar and Erez, who are still young and have been through an unbearable experience.”
Israel’s military has issued some more pictures of its troops operating inside the Gaza Strip during the temporary truce period.
Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, is making his first official visit to Turkey today, AFP reports. He will meet his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, one of Israel’s most outspoken critics since 7 October.
Erdoğan has described Israel as a “terrorist state” and called Iran-backed Hamas “a liberation group”, much to the annoyance of Tel Aviv. He has also suggested trying Israeli politicians and military commanders in the international criminal court in The Hague.
Tareq Abu Azzoum has been reporting from Khan Younis in Gaza for Al Jazeera. He writes that with the extended pause in fighting “the main concern for people is trying to gain access to as many supplies – including food and water – and to get in contact with their relatives in the north, in case fighting resumes.”
An Israeli hostage freed by Hamas has said in an interview that she was initially fed well in captivity until conditions worsened and people became hungry, the Associated Press reports. She was kept in a “suffocating” room and slept on plastic chairs with a sheet for nearly 50 days. The news agency writes:
In one of the first interviews with a freed hostage, 78-year-old Ruti Munder told Israel’s Channel 13 television that she spent the entirety of her time with her daughter, Keren, and grandson, Ohad Munder-Zichri, who celebrated his ninth birthday in captivity. Her account, broadcast Monday, adds to the trickle of information about the experience of captives held in Gaza.
Munder was snatched 7 October from her home in Nir Oz, a kibbutz in southern Israel. Her husband, Avraham, also 78, was taken hostage too and remains in Gaza. Her son was killed in the attack.
Initially, they ate “chicken with rice, all sorts of canned food and cheese,” Munder told Channel 13. “We were OK.”
They were given tea in the morning and evening, and the children were given sweets. But the menu changed when “the economic situation was not good, and people were hungry.”
Israel has maintained a tight siege on Gaza since the war erupted, leading to shortages of food, fuel and other basic items.
Munder, who was freed Friday, returned in good physical condition, like most other captives.
Freed hostages have mostly kept out of the public eye since their return. Any details about their ordeal have come through relatives, who have not revealed much.
Munder, confirming accounts from relatives of other freed captives, said they slept on plastic chairs. She said she covered herself with a sheet but that not all captives had one.
Boys who were there would stay up late chatting, while some of the girls would cry, she said. Some boys slept on the floor.
She said she would wake up late to help pass the time. The room where she was held was “suffocating,” and the captives were prevented from opening the blinds, but she managed to crack open a window.
“It was very difficult,” she said.
Munder said that on 7 October, she was put on a vehicle with her family and driven into Gaza. A militant draped over them a blanket her grandson had carried from home, which she said was meant to prevent them from seeing the militants around them. While in captivity, she learned from a Hamas militant who listened to the radio that her son was killed, according to the Channel 13 report.
Still, she said, she held out that hope she would be freed.
“I was optimistic. I understood that if we came here, then we would be released. I understood that if we were alive – they killed whoever they wanted to in Nir Oz.”
Ahed Tamimi, who rose to global prominence after a video of her slapping an Israeli soldier went viral in 2017, is on a list of 50 Palestinian prisoners released by Israel’s justice department who could be freed in exchange for Israeli hostages.
Tamimi spent eight months in prison for the 2017 assault.
The now 22-year-old was arrested again on 6 November when the Israeli military raided her home in the occupied West Bank, accusing her of inciting violence and calling for terrorist activity in an Instagram post.
Her family has denied that she wrote the post, saying she is frequently hacked online.
The New York Times reported on Monday that Israel had moved to incarcerate her under administrative detention.
Citing her lawyer, Mahmoud Hassan, the Times reported that she faced indefinite imprisonment, without charges or trial, based on evidence that neither she nor her lawyer are allowed to see.
“I’m hopeless to defend her,” Hassan said.