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Israel and Hamas complete third prisoner-hostage exchange


For the third day in a row, Hamas and Israel have exchanged hostages and prisoners. And for a third day in a row, a temporary cease-fire has held. The group of Israeli prisoners released today by Hamas included an American toddler. One more exchange is expected tomorrow, and then the four-day cease-fire expires. But Hamas and Israel have both indicated they want to extend it. Let's get the latest from NPR's Daniel Estrin in Tel Aviv. Hey, Daniel.


DETROW: So who did Hamas release tonight?

ESTRIN: Hamas released 14 Israelis, including women and children, and the youngest is that American dual national you mentioned. Her parents were killed on the Hamas attack on October 7, and the U.S. says this leaves nine more Americans believed to still be held captive in Gaza. President Biden today said he's glad for her release. One of the Israelis released today is a dual Russian citizen, and Russia says it negotiated his release separately with Hamas. And then, in addition, Hamas also released three guest workers from Thailand.

DETROW: And in exchange for these releases, Israel, again, freed Palestinian prisoners. Tell us about them.

ESTRIN: There were 39 Palestinian prisoners released today. These are boys in their teens. They were held in Israel on offenses like throwing a firebomb, which caused no injuries. An 18-year-old was freed to Gaza, and Israel said that he had crossed from Gaza into Israel and that he had been sent to carry out an attack in Israel. What's interesting is that Israel's far-right security minister has ordered that no celebrations or expressions of joy take place with the return of these Palestinian prisoners. Police have confiscated sweets at one home. Eyewitnesses have said Israeli police stormed the home of a female prisoner released and beat those inside. But in the West Bank, many of the released prisoners have received a hero's welcome.

DETROW: Yeah. Yeah. So the hostages and prisoners have been released again. But this is also now Day 3 of the cease-fire in Gaza - no bombardments, no attacks. What was it like in Gaza today?

ESTRIN: There were hundreds of trucks that delivered aid, badly needed supplies like fuel for bakeries, blankets for winter. Our producer in Gaza, Anas Baba, says he saw dozens of people who were wounded when they were run over by an aid truck. They were trying to grab whatever they could from the truck when they were run over. He says people formed long lines today to try to fill up their tanks with cooking gas and their cars with gas but went home empty-handed because all the fuel and cooking gas being brought in are going to the United Nations for bakeries and for sewage plants to power those and hospitals as well. But medics did manage to deliver a hundred trucks of food and baby formula and other aid to northern Gaza. That is the hardest-hit area where Israel is occupying, and it's the largest aid convoy to that part of Gaza since Israel's ground invasion last month.

DETROW: So tomorrow is the last day of this temporary cease-fire. How likely is it to be extended?

ESTRIN: Well, Hamas is saying it wants to extend it. And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel today said he is willing to extend it along this formula of, you know, one day more for every 10 more Israeli hostages that Hamas manages to locate and free. But Netanyahu said that he spoke with President Biden today and told him that after that, it is back to war. And actually, Netanyahu paid this remarkable visit to Gaza today to visit the troops, perhaps the first such visit of an Israeli leader to Gaza in many, many years. He said Israel is going to go all the way until we destroy Hamas, he says. And that just tells you, first of all, how fully in control and secure the army feels that Gaza is - for - to let Netanyahu go there. But it's this real symbol of defiance. And the big question is, you know, how long will this cease-fire last, and will Israel be able to resume the war after it?

DETROW: Daniel Estrin, thank you so much.

ESTRIN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.