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Summary of events: Day 49 of Hamas-Israel war, first day of truce


Summary of events: Day 49 of Hamas-Israel war, first day of truce

A Palestinian man sits among the rubble of a house destroyed in an Israeli strike during the conflict, amid the temporary truce between Hamas and Israel, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip Nov. 24. (Credit: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters)

Take a moment to get the bigger picture with a summary of events from the 49th day of the Hamas-Israel war.
Included in today's summary is some background information about Palestinian prisoners, compiled to better understand the role they play in this hostage exchange.


After 48 days of non-stop fighting between Hamas and Israel, the sun rose on a battered Gaza Strip, where — save for a volley of rockets fired from Gaza 15 minutes after the scheduled truce was set to begin — the sky was finally clear of missiles.


Palestinians stand among the rubble of houses destroyed in an Israeli strike during the conflict, amid the temporary truce between Hamas and Israel, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip Nov. 24, 2023. (Credit: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters)


Reporters from AFP described the scene, saying the sound of bombs had been replaced by car horns and ambulance sirens, as thousands of people emerged from the schools and hospitals where they had taken shelter. They described a mass movement of Gazans, with many hoping to return to their homes, in whatever condition they might find them in. However, some who tried to move into the northern part of the Strip were shot at by Israeli soldiers. Haaretz reported 15 injuries, while Al Jazeera reported two dead and seven injured.


A Palestinian boy carries an Israeli flyer warning citizens of Gaza not to return to the north of the strip, in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on Nov. 24, 2023, as a four-day cease fire took effect following weeks of Israeli bombardment. (Credit: Mohammed Abed/AFP)


In spite of the continued presence of both perceived and actualized danger, for many people, Israeli, Palestinian, even Thai and Filipino, today was about going home.


Palestinians walk amid the rubble of destroyed buildings in Gaza City on the northern Gaza strip following weeks of Israeli bombardment, as a four-day ceasefire took effect on Nov. 24, 2023. (Credit: AFP)

Twenty-four hostages were released by Hamas today, handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross and transported across the border to Egypt. Among the 24 were 13 Israelis, 10 Thais, and one Filipino. This was the first group to be released with more planned for the next three days, to reach a total of 50 hostages freed. In exchange, Israel released 39 Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons, all women and children — more will follow as well, with the agreement that 150 will eventually be freed.

US President Joe Biden told reporters in a press conference that he is expecting the release and exchange to continue in the coming days, that he believes there is a "real chance" of extending the truce, and that he doesn't know how long this war will go on for.


Noise cancelling headphones suitable for children await the arrival of people who have been held hostage in the Gaza Strip and who are due to be released as part of a deal between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, to free hostages held in Gaza in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners, at an unspecified location in Israel, as seen in a handout picture released on Nov. 24, 2023. (Credit: IDF via Reuters)


Here is some background information about Palestinian prisoners and the role they play in this exchange.

Wave of arrests

On Nov. 8, Amnesty International put out a statement saying that Israel had dramatically increased its arrests of Palestinians in the West Bank since the start of the war. Both CNN and Reuters quote the Palestinian Prisoners Society, which represents prisoners held by Israel, as saying that 2,700 Palestinians were detained in the West Bank and Jerusalem in October alone, 145 of them children and 55 of them women.

Dire conditions behind bars

For its part, the Israeli army claims over half of the detainees arrested since Oct. 7 are associated with Hamas. The Israel Prison Service also said that "as part of the war effort" it is imposing tougher imprisonment conditions for Palestinian political prisoners. Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian Authority Commission for Prisoners' Affairs, says at least four Palestinian prisoners have died in Israeli custody since the war began and that their autopsies revealed evidence of torture and medical neglect. Heba Morayef, Amnesty's regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, cited testimony and video evidence she said revealed numerous incidents of torture and mistreatment of Palestinian detainees by Israeli forces. Their experiences included beatings and deliberate humiliation while imprisoned in dire conditions.


Palestinian prisoners (wearing grey jumpers) cheer after being released from the Israeli Ofer military facility in Baytunia in the occupied West Bank in exchange for hostages freed by Hamas in Gaza, on Nov. 24, 2023. (Credit: Ahamd Gharabli/AFP)


A history of exchanges

Israel has a history of agreeing to asymmetrical prisoner-hostage exchanges with Palestinian groups. In 1982, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) took three Israeli soldiers captive. Three years later, a deal was finally reached in which 1,150 Palestinian prisoners were exchanged for the three soldiers. In 2011, another deal — this time for the release of Gilad Shalit, captured by Hamas in 2006 — was reached in which 1,027 Palestinian prisoners were freed in exchange for the one Israeli soldier.


A Red Cross vehicle, as part of a convoy believed to be carrying hostages abducted by Hamas militants during the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, arrives at the Rafah border, amid a hostages-prisoners swap deal between Hamas and Israel, in the southern Gaza Strip November 24, 2023. (Credit: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters)


No charge, no trial

According to the Palestinian Authority, as reported by CNN, the total number of Palestinians held by Israel has now risen to more than 8,300 and includes some 350 children and 72 women. This number does not include prisoners from Gaza, which Israel allegedly refuses to disclose. Haaretz reported on the list of prisoners set to be released by Israel — 123 are minors under the age of 18 and five are 14 years old.

Amnesty International also points to Israel’s increased use of administrative detention, a form of incarceration without charge or trial. Fares says more than 3,000 people are currently being held without any knowledge of why and without any ongoing legal processes.

The Guardian reported on the ongoing hostage-prisoner exchange, commenting that the plight of prisoners is a key issue for Palestinians, since at least four of every 10 Palestinian men spend time in Israeli prisons.


Compiled by Amelia Hankins

Take a moment to get the bigger picture with a summary of events from the 49th day of the Hamas-Israel war.Included in today's summary is some background information about Palestinian prisoners, compiled to better understand the role they play in this hostage exchange.After 48 days of non-stop fighting between Hamas and Israel, the sun rose on a battered Gaza Strip, where — save for a volley of...