Hamas hands over ten Israeli and two foreign hostages on fifth day of truce

Israel said the Hamas militant group handed over ten Israeli and two foreign hostages on the fifth day of a pause in fighting in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli prison service also reported that 30 Palestinians - 15 teenage boys and 15 women - were released from prison at 20:00 GMT.

A truce between Israel and Hamas was extended on Tuesday by two more days due to allow the expected release of other Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners.

The Israeli hostages were reportedly flown to hospitals in Israel where they were reunited with their families.

The agreement - mediated by Qatar, Egypt and the United States - first came into force on Friday.

Mediators met in Qatar to try to extend the pause beyond Wednesday. For the first time since it began, Israel and Hamas traded accusations of a serious violation with an exchange of fire between troops and militants in northern Gaza.

But there was no indication that it would endanger the truce or the planned exchanges of hostages held in Gaza for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.

So far, it has enabled the release of 50 hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and 150 Palestinians imprisoned in Israel. Some 19 other hostages, mostly foreign workers, were freed by the Palestinian militants, though this came outside the deal.

The Palestinian prisoners released so far have been mostly teenagers accused of throwing stones and firebombs during confrontations with Israeli forces.

Some were convicted by Israeli courts of attempting to carry out deadly attacks. The prisoners are widely seen by Palestinians as heroes resisting occupation.

Israel has vowed to resume the war with “full force” to destroy Hamas once it’s clear that no more hostages will be freed under the deal.

The Biden administration has told Israel it must avoid “significant further displacement” and mass casualties among Palestinian civilians if it resumes the offensive, and that it must operate with more precision in southern Gaza than it has in the north, according to US officials.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the White House.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to visit the region this week, also with an eye to extending the truce.

Hamas and other militants are still holding about 160 hostages out of the 240 seized in their 7 October assault into southern Israel that ignited the war. Israel has said it is willing to extend the truce by one day for every 10 additional hostages that Hamas releases.

But Hamas is expected to make much higher demands for the release of captive soldiers.