The IDF said six hostages have been transferred by the Red Cross late on Thursday after hours of delay in their release and after two hostages were freed earlier in the day. The six were on their way to Israel and their families updated.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a press conference that the U.S. would continue to support Israel in its actions to prevent Hamas from the ability to repeat the massacre of October 7 and remove it from power in Gaza.
Blinken also said Israeli leaders understand the need to avoid civilian casualties in its offensive on the Strip. He spoke to reporters after meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
The secretary met earlier with President Issac Herzog, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Opposition Leader Yair Lapid. He also attended a meeting of the war cabinet.
Earlier Mia Schem who was freed in the late afternoon hours, ran into her mother's arms when she arrived, and then embraced her older brother also waiting for her return.
Schem, 21 was abducted from the Nova music festival and was considered missing for days. The family later learned that she was abducted to Gaza by the terrorists but were not prepared to receive a sign of life, in a video posted by the terrorists as part of their psychological warfare, days after her abduction. She was seen receiving medical attention for her wounded hand pleaded to be released. "I just ask to return home, get me out of here as quickly as possible," she said in the video although was likely making the statement under duress.
Mother Keren and the rest of the family received the news of her release with great joy. "Mom opened the door screaming Mia was coming home," her brother Uri said.
"We are excited like mad, another brother said. "We have been waiting for this moment for two months have prepared for an indefinite wait. Now is the time and there is not much to say. The past days during hostages releases, have meant sleepless nights. I only managed to fall asleep at seven and when we heard the news, everyone has been calling me. It is happiness I cannot even express."
Amit Soussana, an attorney living on her own, was taken from her rented home in Kfar Aza and her family did not know if she was dead or alive. They had communicated with her in the morning of October 7 and she told them she was going to hide in a closet inside her safe room.
"It sounds like they are here outside. Damn, I hope this ends already. This is the scariest thing in the world. They are shooting again and I am running out of battery." Only after 20 days, was the family told that she was being held hostage in Gaza and now are relieved to know she is safely back in Israel.
An Israeli official told CNN that the hostages being released on Thursday were kept in different locations in the Gaza Strip and therefore they were being delivered to the Red Cross at different times.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the command center dealing with negotiating hostages release under the leadership of Brig. Gen. Nitzan Alon. He received a briefing and commended the work done. "Keep it up, we will keep it up together," he said.
The family of Aviv Atzili from Nir Oz, learned that he was murdered by terrorists in the Hamas massacre on October 7, one day after his wife, American born Liat Beinin Atzili who was held captive in Gaza, was freed after 54 days in captivity.
Hamas posted on Thursday a cruel video showing Yarden Bibas speaking about his family after being told his wife, 4-year old son and 10-month old baby were dead. In the vicious act of psychological terrorism Yarden Bibas was seen speaking words, likely dictated to him. The terrorists said on Wednesday that the mother and her two little children were no longer alive, after they were seen being taken from their home on October 7. Israel could not confirm the condition of the three. Ynet chose not to show the video.
The family of Aisha al-Ziadna, 17, and her brother Bilal, 18, residents of the Bedouin city of Rahat, were informed that the teens will be released Thursday as part of the seventh round of releases in the deal to free hostages from Gaza. The two were kidnapped along with their father Yosef, 49, and their brother Hamza, 21, while at work at Kibbutz Holit.
They are two of up to 10 Israelis, including two Russian citizens, who are set to be released by Hamas on Thursday night.
A Hamas official told the AFP network at noon on Thursday that 10 Israelis, and not eight as originally announced, would be released. Earlier, the network reported that Russia is putting pressure on Hamas to release more Russian citizens as part of the cease-fire.
The list of Israelis being released includes the teens, six women and three bodies of dead hostages.
"After we saw the list of those released, we received calls from the IDF and security officials and they finally informed us that Aisha and her brother Bilal would be released," Daham al-Ziadna, a relative of the hostages, said. "We are happy, but the joy will remain missing as long as all the hostages are not released. We want to see everyone in the family. We still have no information about the others, and that worries us a lot."
On Wednesday, the families of the Bedouin hostages and the leadership of the Bedouin public called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and all parties involved in the negotiations to act for the release of the Bedouin hostages, and in particular for the release of Aisha and Bilal, who meet the criteria for the release of children.
The families and the leadership of the Bedouin community said in a staetment that "the Bedouin community paid a heavy price with 17 murdered people, and many young Bedouins sacrificed for the sake of helping and saving Jewish families, such as Amer Abu Sabila , who was murdered while saving some of the members of the Swissa family from Sderot and many others. It is unthinkable to leave them behind, especially when two of those meet the agreed criteria for release at this stage - 17-year-old Aisha and her 18-year-old brother Bilal. The leadership of the Bedouin community calls on the prime minister and all those involved to make every effort to return them home."
The letter also said that "on this occasion, the leadership of the Bedouin public appreciates and thanks all the involved parties and mediators working to return all the hostages, congratulates the hostages who returned safely to their families and wishes a safe return to all the other hostages without exception."
A relative of the hostages from the al-Ziadana family said Wednesday that "there is no way to leave them with Hamas. They demand that the family be included in the list. Most of the families of the hostages are aware of the fate of their family members, and we still do not know if they are alive or not. The mental situation is very difficult, we started to feel that they are capricious. At least let us be informed about their condition."
A friend of Aisha said that there is a "difficult and shocking atmosphere. I want to hear her voice as it was before she was kidnapped. I don't understand the reasons why Aisha is not included in the releases. Let her be released. Our hearts are torn, and every day the feeling is harder."
A relative of the hostages, Farhan Al-Qadi, said: "We are all waiting for them to be released, we don't yet know how to speak and what to say. It is not enough that we are living precariously in our lives in terms of toilets and shelters, now there is the matter of the hostages, about whom we know nothing. Because of the situation, we can not sleep, can not work and can not to eat, and we hope that we will accept them all and not be left with this difficult state of mind."
First published: 17:37, 11.30.23