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2nd stage of prisoner release is awaited in the Gaza ‘ceasefire’

Monitoring Desk

ISLAMABAD: Israel was set to release a second group of Palestinian prisoners on Saturday in exchange for captives taken by resistance group Hamas, as a truce largely held in the devastated Gaza Strip after seven weeks of brutal Israeli attacks that killed at least 15,000 thousand people.
Israeli prison authorities said 42 Palestinian inmates — both male and female — would be freed under the terms of the agreement, which mandates exchanges at a ratio of three to one. An Israeli official source said 14 captives would be handed over.
The transfers follow an initial exchange Friday, the first day of a four-day truce that largely silenced the guns on both sides.
The second day of the truce appeared to be holding. Only a small plume of grey smoke rose over northern Gaza, the focus of Israel’s air and ground offensive against Hamas, an AFPTV live cam showed.
According to the Israeli defence ministry body that handles Palestinian civil affairs, 200 aid trucks in total entered in the biggest humanitarian convoy since the war began.
Israel has placed Gaza under near-total siege, leaving Gazans struggling to survive with shortages of water and other essentials.
In Rafah on Saturday many waited to fill gas canisters for cooking. “All the people are hoping and ready for it to make their lives easier,” said one resident, Ezzeddine Abu Omeira.
Prior to the war, 500 trucks crossed into Gaza daily, according to OCHA, the United Nations humanitarian agency.
The UN estimates that 1.7 million of Gaza’s 2.4 million people have been displaced by the fighting. Thousands have now been returning to what is left of their homes.
“We are civilians,” Mahmud Masood, standing in front of flattened buildings in Jabalia, northern Gaza. “Why have they destroyed our houses?”
Israel’s army claimed early Saturday that it downed a surface-to-air missile launched from Lebanon towards an Israeli drone. In response, the army claimed Israeli warplanes also struck the infrastructure of Hezbollah.
An Israeli-owned ship suffered minor damage in a suspected attack by a drone in the Indian Ocean on Friday, a US defence official confirmed on Saturday.
Hamas, earlier on Saturday, shared a list of captives to be released today with Israel, following the release of 24 captives the previous day, the first of a planned four-day truce.
Israeli security officials were reviewing the list, the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.
US President Joe Biden expressed hope the pause could be extended, however.
The released captives, including Thai farm workers, were transferred from Gaza and handed to Egyptian authorities at the Rafah border crossing, along with eight staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross in a four-car convoy, the organisation said.