The TBH desk
The first Israeli women and children hostages due to be released under the first ceasefire deal of the war with Hamas were being freed on Friday, Israeli TV channels reported, and Thailand said 12 Thai workers were also released.
Israeli media reported that the Israeli hostages had been handed to the Red Cross and to an Egyptian security team. Reuters could not immediately confirm this.
Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said in a social media post that the 12 Thai workers had been released from captivity in Gaza. A source briefed on the negotiations said the release of the Thais, who were all men, was unrelated to the truce negotiations and followed a separate track of talks with Hamas mediated by Egypt and Qatar.
Under the terms of the four-day Israel-Hamas truce, 13 women and children out of around 240 hostages captured by Hamas fighters on a killing spree in southern Israel on Oct 7 were expected to comprise the first group to be released.
They had been due to be freed with the aid of the Red Cross and an Egyptian security team at 4 pm (1400 GMT), nine hours after the start of the ceasefire, and to be flown home under military guard.
In exchange, Israel was due to release the first 39 Palestinians from its jails on Friday, among them 24 women and 15 teenagers.
A total of 50 hostages and 150 Palestinian prisoners are to be freed under the four-day truce, though Israel has said the ceasefire could be extended if Hamas continues to release hostages at a rate of at least 10 per day. A Palestinian source has said up to 100 hostages could go free.
Earlier on Friday, combat between Israeli troops and Hamas fighters halted for the first time in seven weeks in a temporary truce ahead of the hostage release.
No big bombings, artillery strikes or rocket attacks were reported, although Hamas and Israel both accused each other of sporadic shootings and other violations.
Both said the war would resume on full throttle as soon as the truce was over.