The Israeli military has tonight revealed that 11 more hostages held by Hamas are now back on Israeli soil, after the fourth exchange of hostages and prisoners.
IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari said tonight that ‘an elite unit of the IDF’ accompanied the group, all young children, teenagers and mothers, back to Israel, where they will undergo a medical assessment.
‘Our forces will accompany the returnees until they reach their families in the hospitals.’
All 11 hostages, made up of three French citizens, two German citizens and six Argentinian citizens, being released tonight were all taken by Hamas from Kibbutz Nir Oz, a settlement just a mile-and-a-half away from the Gaza border with a pre-invasion population of around 400.
The hostages, almost all of whom are young children and teenagers, have been named as: Yuli Cunio, three, Emma Cunio, three, Sharon Aloni Cunio, 34, Karina Engelbert, 51, Yagil Jacob, 12, Erez Kalderon, 12, Sahar Kalderon, 16, Or Jacob, 16, Yuval Engel, 11, Mika Engel, 18, and Eitan Yahalomi, 12.
But fears from earlier tonight that Hamas would split up families have seemingly been confirmed, as many of the children released have been forced to leave their loved ones behind.
One as-yet-unidentified hostage was seen leaving Hamas custody in a wheelchair, while several others were seen in bright pink clothes
Agam Goldstein-Almog, 17, (pictured, centre) was seen back in the arms of her loved ones after spending weeks as a hostage
Yuli Cunio, three, Emma Cunio, three, and Sharon Aloni Cunio, 34, (pictured) were all released today
Sahar Kalderon, 16, was held by Hamas for over seven weeks, and was today released under the extended ceasefire deal
Erez Kalderon, 12, was today released by Hamas terrorists after being captive for over seven weeks
The Cunio family are still missing their father, David, after they were all taken from Nir Oz during Hamas’ incursion.
Twelve-year-old Eitan will also be missing his father, Ohad, who remains a Hamas prisoner.
Eitan’s mother, Bat Sheva, previously revealed that motorcycle riding Hamas militants tried to kidnap her and her children from their Nir Oz home, but she managed to jump off with her two daughters.
She added that she was terrified that her Manchester City-supporting son will not be the same following his seven-week stint as a hostage.
The Kalderon family, who will soon be reunited with 16-year-old Sahar and 12-year-old Erez, are also missing their father, 53-year-old Oher.
It is not currently known whether the hostages released tonight ever had contact with other members of their family who were also being held by Hamas.
Tal Goldstein-Almog, 9, (pictured) was seen being cradled by his loved ones after he and the other hostages arrived back in Israel
Despite the happy scenes, spokesperson for the hostages families tonight told MailOnline: ‘Every single child that has been released tonight is being returned while their father is being left in Hamas captivity in Gaza’
A spokesperson for the hostages families tonight told MailOnline: ‘Every single child that has been released tonight is being returned while their father is being left in Hamas captivity in Gaza. Very hard to swallow.’
All 11 hostages came from the same settlement, Kibbutz Nir Oz. The head of the kibbutz, Osnat Peri, tonight said in a statement: ‘The news this evening brings a sigh of relief to our community.’
He said that he and his community are still ‘deeply concerned about our loved ones that are still held hostage’, adding that of the hostages still left in Gaza, 49 are from Nir Oz.
Three of the hostages were French, and the country’s president Emmanuel Macron tonight said in a post to X: ‘Three of our young compatriots are part of the group of hostages released today.
‘Extremely happy with this announcement.’
Images of Hamas handing over the 11 hostages revealed its militants stood in a parade as the civilians walked towards a Red Cross van, which took them back to Israeli officials.
One as-yet-unidentified hostage was seen leaving Hamas custody in a wheelchair, while several others were seen in bright pink clothes.
Brothers Tal Goldstein-Almog, 9, and Gal Goldstein-Almog, 11, were seen in the company of ‘an elite unit of the IDF’, as spokesperson Daniel Hagari described them
The brothers were seen in good spirits wearing earmuffs in a convoy that is currently taking them back to Israel
Despite the smiles, many of the children released have been forced to leave members of their families behind
Egyptian media has reported that a further six Thai hostages are set to be released alongside the Israelis, though this has not yet been confirmed.
Qatar’s foreign ministry tonight said in a post to X that 33 Palestinian civilians held in Israeli jails will be freed in exchange, as part of the temporary ceasefire deal that was today extended by two days.
The terms of the truce agreement pausing the fighting in the Gaza Strip say it can be extended beyond its initial four-day term as long as 10 hostages are released for each extra day, with three times as many Palestinians freed in return.
Qatar’s Foreign Ministry said the truce had been extended by two more days, suggesting Hamas intends to released another 20 hostages on top of the 50 hostages that were set to be released over the first four days.
A White House official and Hamas also confirmed the deal had been struck. The Hamas official said the conditions were the same as the previous four-day ceasefire, which was scheduled to end at 7am (5am GMT) on Tuesday.
The Red Cross was waiting for the hostages for the fourth time in as many days
Images of Hamas handing over the 11 hostages revealed its militants stood in a parade as the civilians walked towards a Red Cross van
The deal is understood to have gone down to a wire and seemed on the verge of unravelling.
Hamas had accused Israel of failing to keep its side of the bargain and Israel was threatening to resume its lethal onslaught on the Gaza Strip.
But mediators were able to pull it back from the brink, a feat that involved the first ever public visit by Qatari officials to Israel, according to AP.
Israeli media this afternoon reported Hamas had amended the hostage list ahead of today’s exchange, cutting down the number of people it would set free.
The government was said to be ‘not happy’ with the list of hostages due to be released because it is made up of children and elderly women – suggesting yet more families are to be split up because children will not be released with their parents.
Israeli media has reported that all 11 hostages being released tonight were all taken by Hamas from Kibbutz Nir Oz
While there is now one set of hostages which will be released tomorrow, the White House’s national security spokesperson John Kirby tonight told reported that the US is working ‘very, very hard to keep this flow of hostages going.’
He told CNN: ‘We’re glad to see that there’s a two-day extension [to the temporary truce with Israel]. And we certainly would hope that in the next two days, in this next couple of installments, that we’ll see some Americans coming out.
‘But it’s difficult to know for sure, day to day, exactly how Hamas is making these decisions.
‘I would remind that the test pilot for this whole program was two Americans, a mother and daughter, several weeks ago, and of course, we were able to get Abigail Edan out over the weekend.
Raz Asher (left), four, her two-year-old sister Aviv (right) and their mother Doron, 34, reunite with their father and husband Yoni at the Schneider Children’s Medical Center
Keren Munder, 54, and her son Ohad Munder, age 9, with his father and a family member at the Schneider Children’s Medical Center. Keren and Ohad were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists on October 7
‘That’s promising, but we’re just going to have to keep at it.’
UN chief Antonio Guterres today said the deal represented a ‘glimpse of hope and humanity in the middle of the darkness of war.’
He said he ‘strongly’ hopes the extended temporary ceasefire will allow the UN’s humanitarian arm to increase aid to Gaza’s citizens.
But he warned that even with the additional time it gave, it would be ‘impossible to satisfy all the dramatic needs of the population in Gaza’.
NATO’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg also weighed in, ahead of a meeting of allied foreign ministers in Brussels.
A group of Israelis celebrate as a helicopter carrying hostages released from the Gaza Strip lands at the helipad of the Schneider Children’s Medical Center in Petah Tikva, Israel
Six-year-old Emelia Aloni and her mother Danielle reunite with their family at the Schneider Children’s Medical Center
‘I call for an extension of the pause. This would allow for much needed relief to the people of Gaza and the release of more hostages,’ he told journalists.
European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said the extension of the current truce in Gaza is within reach, and that it would allow international community to work on a political solution to the conflict.
He said that the Palestinian Authority needs to regain control of Gaza from Hamas, offering a ‘better and viable’ alternative to it.
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was resolute in his intentions to crush Hamas, declaring his forces would resume its offensive ‘with all of our might’ once the truce expires, which it is now set to do Thursday, unless another deal is struck.
Today’s releases bring to 74 the total number of freed Israeli hostages from around 240 taken to Gaza after the unprecedented October 7 Hamas attack on Israel.
More to follow.