Among the hostages still held by Hamas in Gaza as of Thursday morning were four children: Ariel and Kfir Bibas, aged four years and ten months respectively, and siblings Aisha and Bilal Ziyadne, from the Bedouin community of Ziyadne, near Rahat, named after their family.
* Update: Aisha and Bilal Ziyadne were released on Thursday night.
Both of the siblings are below the age of 19 — Aisha is 17 and Bilal is 18 — and according to the terms of the truce between Israel and Hamas, they are eligible to be freed during the current halt in fighting.
Around 35 children and teenagers held by Hamas and other groups in Gaza have been released as part of a ceasefire deal that began Friday with an initial four-day truce, extended by an additional two days. Eight more hostages are expected to be released on Thursday in a further one-day extension.
The releases have brought the number of civilian hostages freed from Gaza in the last week to 95 — 73 Israelis and 22 foreign nationals, mostly Thai agricultural workers.
In exchange for the freeing of Israeli hostages, 210 Palestinians serving time in Israeli prison for security offenses have been released so far.
Youssef Ziyadne, 53, has been working for the past 17 years in farming at Kibbutz Holit, located a short distance away from the Gaza border. About five years ago, his son Hamza, now 22, joined him to work in the kibbutz. Another son, Bilal, now 18, followed suit about a year ago.
On October 7, Youssef and his two sons were working the night shift at the cowshed, and took along with them Aisha, 17, one of the daughters of the large family, which counts 19 children from two wives.
Their shift was supposed to end at 7 a.m. The Hamas onslaught began just half an hour before, at around 6:30 a.m.
Youssef and his three children were abducted and dragged into Gaza, together with about 240 other hostages — both Israelis and foreign agricultural workers from the kibbutzim of the area.
The terms of the truce agreement between Hamas and Israel stipulate that children under the age of 19 who are not in the military, such as Aisha and Bilal, should be released during the lull.
Since the onset of the truce, the army has been in daily contact with the Ziyadne family, updating them on the names slated for release.
Aisha, a quiet girl, is engaged to her cousin Rizeq, whom she plans to get married and start a family with after she graduates from high school.
Her brother Bilal loves animals, and owns a horse and a camel.
Since the day of the assault, the extended Ziyadne family has been holding a permanent vigil outside the house of Youssef Ziyadne, observing a ritual that is normally held during days of mourning.
The family has launched appeals to the international community, particularly Qatar and Egypt, to intercede for the release of its four members from Hamas captivity, emphasizing that they are Arabs and Muslims.