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“Breakthrough Israel-Hamas Truce Frees Historic Group of Israelis and Palestinians

In a groundbreaking step towards establishing peace and diplomatic relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the first group of 33 Palestinians and two Israelis were released this week as a part of the recently brokered truce. The release came following last month’s negotiations that included Egypt acting as a mediator, which successfully led to a long-term ceasefire between the two countries. The agreement included that 33 Palestinians and 2 Israelis would be released in the first phase of the exchange, representing a major milestone in terms of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The released Palestinians will be welcomed back by their families in Gaza and the West Bank, with the two Israelis returning to their homes near the border with Gaza. The symbolic gesture follows the conflict that erupted at the beginning of May, when hundreds of rockets were fired by militant groups in Gaza toward Israel, prompting an Israeli aerial attack and ground operations in Gaza. The conflict lasted 11 days and resulted in at least 254 deaths in Gaza, including 66 children, and 12 in Israel. The truce has been largely praised by both sides and has been heralded as an important step in the efforts to reach a long-term, sustainable peace agreement between the two sides. The exchange also brings hope to the families of Palestinian prisoners , who are currently undergoing long-term sentences in Israeli jails. Rights groups have welcomed the exchange but have urged Israel to end the arbitrary detention of hundreds of Palestinians, most of whom are held without charge or trial. Furthermore, human rights organisations have highlighted the importance of humanitarian access to Gaza, as well as an end to the crippling Israeli blockade on the Strip. Ultimately, while the release of the first group of prisoners is a positive step in terms of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, much more needs to be done in order to make peace and diplomatic engagement a reality for all.