A ceasefire in Gaza was held mainly on Friday, allowing hundreds of trucks of food, medicine, and fuel to enter the densely populated enclave that Israel’s relentless bombardment has besieged since Hamas militants launched their surprise terror attack on October 7. Rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave into southern Israel also went quiet.
The pause in the fighting allowed residents of the war-ravaged enclave to return to their homes and take stock of what remains. It was the first time in weeks that they could hear themselves think as cars streaked past with lights flashing.
Iman Peri, 69, of Kibbutz Nirim, a kibbutz in the northern part of the Strip, was among those who returned to check on their houses. She has diabetes and severe vision loss in one eye, but she has no intention of leaving the house she has lived in for decades. “This is my land,” she said, standing at the entrance to her front yard as a group gathered at a nearby school for a prisoner release.
Peri, a member of the Israeli delegation that negotiated the prisoner exchange, brokered with Qatar’s help. The agreement mandates that each captive taken by Hamas in the operation be swapped for 150 prisoners from Israel’s jails, including women and children. It is to be carried out over four days.
Qatar, which mediated the talks between Israel and Hamas, announced that lists of captives would be released each day, with 13 names appearing in the initial list. Of the 50 initially listed, two were women or boys under 19. Hamas said that other resistance brigades in Gaza would be involved in the prisoner swap.
Amid the cheering, a small crowd of Palestinians gathered outside a building where they were told to meet. They were expected to get lists of prisoners who would be released and information about a planned increase in aid and fuel supplies for Gaza.
Palestinian families waited anxiously to find out whether their relatives were among the 14 captured by Hamas and subsequently handed over to Israel. The families were told to gather at a municipal building in the eastern part of Beitunia. Some said they feared their loved ones wouldn’t be among the first to be released. Other Palestinians said they hoped the swaps would include Nael el Barghouti, the longest-serving Palestinian political prisoner. His wife, Iman, is hopeful about his possible inclusion in the prisoner swap, but he has been unable to receive a formal list of his name from Israel.