On both the Israeli and Palestinian sides, Friday November 24 was the first day of relief since the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7. Twenty-four first hostages – thirteen Israelis, ten Thais and one Filipino – were released by the Islamist movement and thirty-nine Palestinians detained in Israel returned home.

New releases of Hamas hostages and Palestinian prisoners are expected on Saturday, the second day of the truce between the Islamist movement and Israel, which offers a fragile respite to the inhabitants of Gaza after seven weeks of war.

This renewable four-day truce, obtained on Wednesday by Qatar with the support of the United States and Egypt, provides for the release of 50 hostages held in the Gaza Strip and 150 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Qatar is due to announce on Saturday how many hostages and prisoners are to be released during the day. Israeli authorities announced that they had received the list of hostages who will be able to leave Gaza on Saturday, but did not specify the number or the expected time of their release.

In Tel Aviv, the smiling faces of freed hostages were projected Friday evening on the facade of the Art Museum, with the words: “I’m back home. » And near a hospital in Petah Tikva, a suburb of Tel Aviv, people applauded and waved Israeli flags as the two helicopters carrying freed hostages approached.

The director of the Schneider Children’s Medical Center, Efrat Bron-Harlev, who welcomed the four children released Friday by Hamas, including one aged 2, was reassuring about their state of health as well as that of “three mothers and a grandmother” also released by the armed Islamist movement and welcomed in its hospital. “Their physical condition is good and they are currently undergoing a medical and emotional evaluation,” she said.

Netanyahu determined to “bring back” all hostages

“I’m happy to have found my family. Feeling joy is allowed and it is allowed to shed a tear. It’s human,” said Yoni Asher, who was reunited with his wife Doron and two daughters aged 2 and 4, in a video released by the Hostage Families Forum. “But I’m not celebrating, I won’t celebrate until the last hostages come home,” he added. His wife Doron lost her mother during the attack. His brother and his mother’s partner are still hostages in Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who makes the release of the hostages a prerequisite for any ceasefire, said on Friday he was determined to “bring them all back” to Israel. The army estimates that around 240 people were kidnapped by Hamas on October 7.

Scenes of jubilation in the West Bank

In the occupied West Bank, scenes of jubilation accompanied the return of the 39 released prisoners, welcomed as “heroes” as in Beitunia or further north, in the Nablus refugee camp. In East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel since 1967, any celebration around freed prisoners has, however, been banned.

“I am happy but my release came at the price of the blood of the martyrs,” said Marah Bakir, 24, referring to the deaths in Israeli bombings in Gaza. The young woman spent eight years in prison for the attempted murder of an Israeli border guard. “I spent the end of my childhood and my adolescence in prison, far from my parents and their hugs, but that’s how it is with a State that oppresses us and leaves none of us alone,” he said. she adds.

According to Israeli authorities, 1,200 people, the vast majority civilians, were killed during the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7. In retaliation, Israel relentlessly bombed the Gaza Strip and launched a ground offensive there on October 27 to “eliminate” Hamas, in power in Gaza since 2007. According to the Hamas government, 14,854 people, including 6,150 children were killed by Israeli bombings.

The truce offers a fragile moment of respite to Gazans. But the din of war has been replaced by the horns of traffic jams and the sirens of ambulances trying to make their way through the displaced mass leaving hospitals and schools where they had found refuge to “return home”.

200 trucks entered Gaza

More than half of the territory’s homes have been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN, and 1.7 million people have been displaced, out of the 2.4 million people in the Gaza Strip.

In Khan Younès, thousands of men, women and children walk, pile into cars or let themselves be carried on carts. But leaflets dropped from the air by the Israeli army warn: “The war is not over yet. » The army considers the northern third of the territory, where Gaza City is located, to be a combat zone and orders all civilians to leave. “Returning to the north is prohibited and very dangerous! “, warns the leaflet.

Despite this warning from Israel, several thousand Palestinians attempted to reach northern Gaza on Friday, according to the United Nations agency responsible for humanitarian coordination (OCHA). Still according to the UN agency, at least one person was killed and several dozen injured in incidents with Israeli forces, who opened fire and threw tear gas at Palestinians heading north.

The truce must also allow the entry of a greater number of humanitarian aid convoys into the Gaza Strip, subject to an Israeli blockade since Hamas came to power in 2007 and in a state of “complete siege”. since October 9.

On Friday, 200 trucks loaded with aid entered Gaza, according to Cogat, the Israeli Defense Ministry arm overseeing civilian activities in the Palestinian territories. This is the “largest humanitarian convoy” since the start of the war, OCHA stressed. It also included four gasoline trucks and four gas tanks “for the kitchen,” Cogat said.

The Palestinian Red Crescent welcomed this arrival of humanitarian aid but recalled that it will not be enough to meet the needs of “nearly two million people”.