Sixteen hostages were released on Wednesday by Hamas on the final day of a two-day extension of a truce in the Gaza war between Israel and the Palestinian militants.
The group of civilians included Israelis, dual nationals and Thai citizens, officials said.
As part of an exchange deal under the truce, Israel will release 30 Palestinian prisoners – 16 minors and 14 women on Wednesday night, Qatar foreign ministry spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari said in a statement.
The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier identified two Russian-Israeli women freed on Wednesday night as Yelena Trupanov, 50, and Irena Tati, 73. Video from Hamas’ armed wing showed the women being handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross and driven out of the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, in a clash in the West Bank city of Jenin between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians, two young males and two militants were killed, Palestinian official news agency WAFA reported.
An 8-year-old boy, a 15-year-old male and two senior militant commanders died, the report said. The Israeli military said people threw explosive devices at Israeli soldiers, who responded with live fire.
The handover of hostages was overshadowed by an unconfirmed claim by Hamas, the largest militant group in Gaza, that a family of Israeli hostages including the youngest hostage, baby Kfir Bibas, had been killed during earlier Israeli bombardment.
Israeli officials said they were checking the Hamas report about the Bibas family, a very emotive issue in Israel where the family – 10-month-old Kfir, his 4-year-old brother Ariel and their mother Shiri – is among the most high-profile hostages.
Relatives of the Bibas family said they had been informed of the Hamas report. “We are waiting for the information to be confirmed and hopefully refuted by military officials,” a statement from the Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum said.
The two hostages freed were among some 240 people seized by Hamas gunmen during a rampage into southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which Israel says 1,200 people were killed. Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in retaliation has killed more than 15,000 Gazans, according to health authorities in the Palestinian enclave.