Batches of hostages being held captive by Hamas for nearly seven weeks are expected to begin being released Thursday.
Its part of Hamas' agreement with Israel — reached Tuesday — that secures the release of at least 50 women and children currently being held in Gaza. The terms of the deal include a four-day truce, which is set to begin at 10 a.m. local time on Thursday (3 a.m. ET in the U.S.).
In exchange for the hostages, Israel will release 150 Palestinian prisoners.
Three Americans are expected to be released in the initial exchange of hostages, but their exact identities have not yet been shared.
On Wednesday night, Israel is supposed to receive a list of names of the first batch of hostages that will be released Thursday, according to Axios. There will be four groups of hostages released, one on each day of the pause in fighting.
The pause in fighting will allow larger convoys of humanitarian aid to get into Gaza.
Israel will also prepare a list each night of the Palestinian prisoners set to be released the next day, Axios said. Both lists will be given to the Red Cross, and each following morning, the process to transfer hostages to the Rafah border crossing will begin.
When the hostages are released, they will be given to the International Red Cross before being handed over to the Israeli military, who will facilitate their transfer to hospitals for medical evaluation.
From there, hostages will be taken to a more isolated medical facility, where they will be reunited with their families. Those deemed fit enough will take part in a debriefing to offer intelligence on what's going on inside the Gaza Strip.
A total of 239 hostages have been held captive by Hamas since militants launched a deadly attack on Israel on Oct. 7. Nine of them are Americans, U.S. officials say.
U.S. officials said two American women and one American girl are expected to be among the first wave of hostages released. The child, 3-year-old Abigail Edan, turns 4 on Thursday, with her family hoping she will be home for her birthday.
President Joe Biden released a statement after the agreement was reached.
"As President, I have no higher priority than ensuring the safety of Americans held hostage around the world," he said. "That's why — from the earliest moments of Hamas's brutal assault — my national security team and I have worked closely with regional partners to do everything possible to secure the release of our fellow citizens. We saw the first results of that effort in late October, when two Americans were reunited with their loved ones."
On Oct. 20, U.S. mother Judith Raanan and her teenage daughter Natalie Raanan were released and reunited with their families.
President Biden said the deal "should bring home additional American hostages, and I will not stop until they are all released."
Nonstop talks among the U.S., Israel, Egypt and Qatar helped pave a path for a hostage deal, with all involved parties hopeful this initial agreement leads to the release of more hostages. It's twice been described as a "phase one."
On Wednesday President Biden called leaders in Qatar, Israel and Egypt to thank them for their efforts negotiating the new release, and to pledge further efforts to secure the release of all hostages in Gaza.
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