Thai PM says 12 Thai hostages released by Hamas
November 24, 2023 09:01 PM
Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said 12 Thai hostages kidnapped by Palestinian militants during Hamas's October 7 raids into Israel were released on Friday, hours after a truce in the Israel-Hamas war began.
"It has been confirmed by the security side and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that 12 Thai hostages are already released," he posted on X. "Embassy officials are on their way to pick them up in another hour. Their names and details should be known. Please stay tuned."
A total of 25 Thai nationals were among the estimated 240 people taken hostage by gunmen during last month's wave of cross-border raids into Israel. In the worst attack in Israel's history, 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed, according to Israeli authorities.
Israel has retaliated with a massive campaign of air, artillery and naval strikes alongside a ground offensive into Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas. The Hamas government says the war has killed around 15,000 people, thousands of them children.
On Friday, a truce began following weeks of negotiations brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States. Under the agreement, a four-day pause in the fighting should see at least 50 hostages released from Gaza in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
Two Hamas sources told AFP on Friday that some of the hostages seized in the raids were on Friday handed over to the Red Cross for return to Israel, via Egypt. Shortly after the Thai prime minister posted on X, a source close to Hamas confirmed to AFP that some Thai hostages had been freed, in addition to hostages released under the deal with Israel.
"Hamas made a gesture to also release some Thai foreigners," the source close to the Islamist movement said. Last week, a member of Thailand's hostage release negotiation team said his government had been given assurances by Hamas that the kingdom's nationals held hostage by the armed group were "safe".
Earlier this month, the Thai foreign minister travelled to Qatar to hold talks with his Iranian counterpart over the Thai nationals' release. About 30,000 Thais were working in Israel, mostly in the agriculture sector, at the time of the October 7 attacks, according to the kingdom's labour ministry. Thirty-nine citizens have been killed and 19 wounded in the war, with the kingdom evacuating more than 8,500 of its people, according to the Thai foreign ministry.