The truce between Israel and Hamas showed progress on Sunday as the militants released 17 more hostages, including 14 Israelis and the initial American, as part of the third exchange within a four-day ceasefire.
This move, which the U.S. hoped would continue, led Israel to free 39 Palestinian prisoners.
Most of the hostages were handed over directly to Israel, while some departed through Egypt.
One was airlifted to a hospital, with an 84-year-old woman, Elma Avraham, reported in critical condition due to a lack of proper care during her captivity.
The youngest hostage, 4-year-old Abigail Edan, a dual Israeli-American citizen orphaned in the initial Hamas attack, was among those freed.
President Biden acknowledged the hardship she endured and expressed the goal of prolonging the ceasefire.
In all, nine children ages 17 and younger were on the list, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office. Three more Thai nationals were released. Separately, Hamas said it released a Russian hostage “in response to the efforts of Russian President Vladimir Putin.” The Russian-Israeli citizen was the first male hostage to be freed.
The Palestinian prisoners released were mainly children and young men between the ages of 15 and 19, largely accused of various offenses such as public disorder, property damage, and, in some instances, causing or threatening physical harm to Israeli officers.
A fourth exchange is anticipated on the final day of the ceasefire, during which a total of 50 hostages and 150 Palestinian prisoners are slated for release, primarily consisting of women and minors.
International mediators, led by the U.S., Egypt, and Qatar, are working to extend the ceasefire initiated on Friday.
Hamas for the first time said it would seek to extend the deal by looking to release a larger number of hostages. Netanyahu issued a statement saying he had spoken to Biden and reiterated his offer to extend the cease-fire by an additional day for every 10 hostages Hamas releases. But he said Israel would resume its offensive “with all of our might” once the truce expires.