Iran says it helped broker release of Thais held in Gaza

Iran says it helped broker release of Thais held in Gaza

on November 26, 2023

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This undated and unlocated handout photo released on November 25, 2023 by Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs shows a Thai official (C) posing for a group photo with 10 released Thai hostages in Israel, after they were freed by Hamas.  (Photo by Handout / THAILAND’S MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS / AFP)

TEHRAN, Nov 25, 2023 (AFP) – Iran said Saturday it helped broker the surprise release of Thai nationals who had been held by Palestinian militants in war-ravaged Gaza since their shock attack on Israel last month.

On Friday, Hamas unexpectedly released 10 Thais and a Filipino, along with the 13 Israeli women and children that were part of a temporary truce deal with Israel.

Israel in turn freed 39 Palestinian women and children from its prisons.

“The issue of Thai prisoners was jointly pursued by the Islamic Republic of Iran and Qatar,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani told the official IRNA news agency.

The releases took place as a temporary truce paused fighting in Gaza for the first time since October 7 when Hamas gunmen attacked southern Israel, killing at least 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and taking 240 more hostage, according to Israeli figures.

Israel has responded with a withering bombing campaign on Gaza, that has killed more than 15,000 people, most of them women and children, according to the Hamas-run government.

“A list of names of these prisoners was given to Hamas officials to review and assist with the issue from a humanitarian perspective,” Kanani added.

The Thai foreign ministry confirmed the releases on Saturday, saying the 10 individuals — nine men and one woman — had been taken to Israel via Egypt.

It added that roughly 20 Thais are among the estimated 215 people still held hostage in Gaza.

During the four-day truce, Hamas is expected to free a total of 50 Israeli hostages, some of them dual nationals, in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners, under an agreement brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States.

On Thursday, Kanani welcomed the temporary truce as “the first step in the path of completely stopping war crimes committed… by the Zionist regime against Palestinian people.”

Iran, which supports Hamas financially and militarily, has hailed the October 7 attacks as a “success” but denied any direct involvement.

Tehran has made support for the Palestinian cause a centrepiece of its foreign policy since the 1979 Islamic revolution.