A group of 13 Israeli, 10 Thai nationals and one Filipino citizen were released by Palestinian militant group Hamas on Friday as a four-day ceasefire in Israel’s war on Gaza began, multiple media reports said, citing unidentified officials.

In exchange, Israel has released 39 Palestinian prisoners.

The ceasefire is aimed at facilitating the exchange of hostages held by Hamas and Palestinians imprisoned by Tel Aviv. As stated by Qatar’s foreign ministry, the truce began at 7 am (10.30 am, Indian Standard Time).

“Half an hour ago, the prisoners were handed to the Red Cross who will take them to the Egyptians” at the Rafah crossing,” AFP quoted an unnamed Hamas official as saying. “They were handed over to the Egyptian side.”

Hamas is believed to be holding over 200 hostages, taken when it led an incursion into southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people and triggering the war. Since then, over 13,300 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza in relentless air and ground strikes by Israeli forces, according to the health ministry in Gaza.

On Wednesday, the Israeli government approved a temporary ceasefire to facilitate the release of 50 hostages captured by Hamas. The deal also included the release of 150 Palestinian women and children imprisoned by Israel. Qatar, where Hamas has a political office, has been mediating negotiations.

Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari said that to begin with, Hamas will release 13 people, all women and children from the same families. “Obviously every day will include a number of civilians as agreed to a total of 50 within the four days,” the spokesperson added.

He did not specify how many Palestinian prisoners would be freed. Israel’s Justice Ministry has published a list of 300 prisoners – mainly teenagers detained over the past year for rock-throwing and other minor offences – eligible to be released, according to the Associated Press. However, officials were quoted as saying that three prisoners would be freed for every hostage.

“We all hope that this truce will lead to a chance to start a wider work to achieve a permanent truce,” Ansari said, Reuters reported.

During the ceasefire period, 200 trucks carrying aid will enter Gaza each day, said Hamas. Qatar said the aid will include fuel but has not specified quantities. Egypt had said earlier that 1,30,000 litres of diesel and four trucks of gas will be delivered daily to Gaza when the fighting pauses.

This comes at a time when Israel’s blockade on Gaza has resulted in a massive humanitarian crisis as residents have been cut off from vital resources. Residents of Gaza have also been dealing with shortages of food, water and healthcare. The lack of fuel has caused a blackout, leaving homes and hospitals reliant on generators.

Ceasefire not an end to war

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that Tel Aviv would continue its war on Gaza after the ceasefire expires. “We will continue it until we achieve all our goals,” Netanyahu said.

He said that he had told this to United States President Joe Biden in a call.

The prime minister’s office on Wednesday said that Israel “will continue the war in order to return home all of the hostages, complete the elimination of Hamas and ensure that there will be no new threat to the state of Israel from Gaza”.

Hamas has also called for an “escalation of the confrontation on all resistance fronts”, including the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Israel’s chief military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari has said that troops would remain in place during the pause on fighting.

He also stated that the military has surrounded the Jabaliya refugee camp, a dense urban district adjacent to Gaza city, and called on residents inside to evacuate.