Israel-Hamas war, Initial group of 24 hostages released, truce appears to be holding

Palestinians released from Israeli prisons were met with celebrations on Friday evening as they returned to their hometowns and villages in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

In videos obtained by CNN, the released prisoners can be seen paraded through the streets, carried on people’s shoulders as crowds wave the Palestinian flag, as well as that of Hamas.

Thirty-nine people were released Friday under the deal between Israel and Hamas, which also saw the release of 24 hostages from Gaza, and the start of a four-day truce in the enclave. 

Twenty-two women were among those released, as well as two girls. Fifteen teenage boys up to the age of 18 were also released — the youngest age 14. 

What they were imprisoned for: There are few more sensitive issues for Palestinians in the occupied territories than the issue of prisoners held in Israeli jails.

Some are serving sentences for attacks on Israelis, while many others are being held in administrative detention, a widely criticized practice that sees people held without knowing the charges against them, and without any legal process.

Aseel El-Titi, a 23-year-old prisoner released on Friday, told CNN she had only found out that morning she was being released. But, she said, her joy was tempered by the knowledge of what was happening in Gaza.

“Our joy is incomplete. There are martyrs because of the situation in Gaza. The number of martyrs in Gaza has become greater than the number of prisoners [in Israeli jails],” El-Titi said. 

“Despite this, the Palestinian people are steadfast, and Hamas is trying to release all the prisoners and end the occupation,” she said. 

Wael Ahmad, a bystander at the Beitunia crossing in the occupied West Bank, where the prisoners were driven after their release, told CNN he also found it hard to celebrate when so many had been killed in Gaza.

“This celebration is wrong. I am torn to pieces,” Ahmad said.

More releases to come: The agreement struck between Israel and Hamas will see three more days of prisoner releases.

For Hamas, securing the freedom of an expected 150 incarcerated Palestinians represents an opportunity to burnish its credentials in the West Bank as the flagbearer of Palestinian resistance.

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