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Ten Thai hostages released by Hamas

Published : 26 Nov 2023 02:20 AM

Ten Thai hostages kidnapped during Hamas's October 7 raids into Israel were released on Friday, according to the Thai and Israeli governments, hours after a truce in the Israel-Hamas war began.

Roughly 20 Thais are still among the approximately 215 remaining hostages taken by Palestinian militants during last month's wave of cross-border raids into Israel, according to Thailand's foreign ministry and the Israeli army.

The Thai ministry said Saturday that 10 Thai hostages had been released, revising Friday's statement of 12 hostages from Prime Minister SretthaThavisin and Israel.

In the worst attack in Israel's history, 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed, according to Israeli authorities.

Israel retaliated with a massive campaign of air, artillery and naval strikes alongside a ground offensive into Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas.

According to the Hamas-run government, the war has killed around 15,000 people, thousands of them children.

On Friday, a truce began following weeks of negotiations brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States.

Under the agreement, a four-day pause in the fighting was set to see at least 50 hostages released from Gaza in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

Thailand's foreign ministry said Saturday it could "confirm that there are a total of ten (10) Thai nationals released (not 12 as originally reported)".

"Royal Thai Embassy officials are with the group and have notified their relatives," the ministry said.

It added that the 10 individuals -- nine men and one woman -- had been transported into Israel via Egypt, as agreed under the terms of the truce deal.

They will remain at Israel's Shamir Medical Center for 48 hours while officials prepare to return them to "their families as soon as possible", the ministry said.

Four of the ten released hostages had never been confirmed as abducted by the Israeli authorities, the ministry added, revising the number of Thais still held in Gaza to 20.

- 'Gesture' -

A source close to Hamas confirmed to AFP that some Thai hostages had been freed, in addition to hostages released under the deal with Israel.

"Hamas made a gesture to also release some Thai foreigners," the source close to the Islamist movement said.

An Israeli security source said 13 Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip had been handed over to Israel Friday.

Qatar's foreign ministry spokesman, Majed Al Ansari, said a total of 24 hostages -- 13 Israelis, 10 Thais and one Filipino -- were handed over to the Red Cross in Gaza by Hamas.

Qatar mediated the landmark truce and exchange of hostages taken by Palestinian militants for Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.

Earlier this month, the Thai foreign minister travelled to Qatar to hold talks with his Iranian counterpart over the Thai nationals' release.

Last week, a member of Thailand's hostage release negotiation team said his government had been given assurances by Hamas that the kingdom's nationals held by the armed group were "safe".

A source with knowledge of the truce negotiations told AFP the release came "following the Thai foreign minister's visit to Qatar and mediation efforts by the Qataris and Egyptians".

About 30,000 Thais were working in Israel, mostly in the agriculture sector, at the time of the October 7 attacks, according to the kingdom's labour ministry.

Thirty-nine Thai citizens have been killed and 19 wounded in the war, with the kingdom evacuating more than 8,500 of its people, according to Bangkok's foreign ministry.