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Hamas to release a third group of hostages in exchange of Palestinian prisoners

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SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

Red Cross vehicles carried a third group of hostages out of Gaza today as the temporary cease-fire between Israel and Hamas continues. Today's group included Abigail Edan, a 4-year-old with dual Israeli American citizenship. About an hour ago, President Joe Biden welcomed her release.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Thank God she's home. A little (laughter) - I just can't imagine the enjoyment and the - I just - I wish I were there to hold her.

MCCAMMON: He said today's developments are proof that the temporary cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas is working and worth pursuing further. Israel just announced the release of 39 Palestinian prisoners, upholding its part of the agreement. Yesterday there were concerns about the deal when Hamas initially delayed releasing hostages. For details we're joined now by NPR's Greg Myre in Tel Aviv. Hi, Greg.

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Hi, Sarah.

MCCAMMON: What is the latest with the release of today's hostages?

MYRE: Well, things are going pretty smoothly, it seems. Today, Hamas released these 14 Israeli hostages and three foreign nationals. Some of these Israelis have dual nationalities. This includes American Israeli Abigail Edan, who turned 4 years old on Friday. We should note both her parents were killed in the Hamas attack last month. She does have two surviving siblings.

Now, there was a slightly different exit procedure from Gaza today. In the past couple days, the freed hostages have been driven out of the southern end of Gaza into Egypt and then Israel - a little circuitous but that was sort of the safest, most secure way to do it. Today the Israelis, for the most part, were taken out directly from central Gaza and straight into Israel. This was because an Israeli woman in her 80s had some serious health issues and needed to be flown urgently by helicopter to a hospital. And as you noted, Israel says it has just released 39 Palestinian prisoners.

MCCAMMON: OK. Greg, President Biden has seemed to indicate he would like to see this temporary cease-fire continue. What did you make of his remarks?

MYRE: Yeah, he was speaking in Nantucket, and he said, quote, "I'd like to see the pause go on for as long as the hostages keep coming out." So this - today was Day 3 of a planned four-day pause. And if it goes as planned tomorrow, we would have about 50 Israeli hostages who have been freed and 150 Palestinian prisoners. So that's - seems to be on track for now. And if the cease-fire holds through Monday, there is a sort of clause in this agreement that says it can be extended a day at a time for six more days, and both sides would have to keep freeing additional people that they're holding. So as we've heard, Biden - and there are other leaders who would like to see it extended, and so Israel may face some pressure to keep it going.

But Israel's been pretty clear. They say they don't want this cease-fire to go on for more than 10 days. And at that point, they will resume military operations against Hamas. We should also note something today - the Israeli leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, made an unannounced visit into northern Gaza to meet with some Israeli troops in areas that they control. And he said, quote, "we are going all the way," in reference to his goal of destroying Hamas.

MCCAMMON: Now, as you've said, we did see some problems and delays yesterday with this deal. Could that hamper efforts to further extend the cease-fire?

MYRE: Yeah, it certainly could. Hamas delayed the release yesterday. It claimed that not enough humanitarian aid was reaching northern Gaza, which it says is part of the cease-fire agreement. Now, Israel said, A, trucks were going into northern Gaza. Qatar, which has been the main broker of this cease-fire, stepped in, as did Egypt and the United States. So it seems like it was sorted out today. We have seen more aid going into Gaza. The last couple days, about 200 trucks a day have been going in - far more than we'd seen at any time in the previous seven weeks before the cease-fire took effect. So on the one hand, this - the additional aid is helping. On the other hand, it could be a sticking point as we try to extend the cease-fire.

MCCAMMON: That's NPR's Greg Myre reporting from Tel Aviv. Thank you, Greg.

MYRE: Sure thing, Sarah. 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.

Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.
Greg Myre is a national security correspondent with a focus on the intelligence community, a position that follows his many years as a foreign correspondent covering conflicts around the globe.