Crowd cheers as freed Palestinian prisoners arrive in West Bank

Palestinian prisoners (wearing grey) cheer among supporters after being released from Israeli jails in exchange for hostages released by Hamas from the Gaza Strip, in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, early on Nov 26, 2023. [AFP]

A bus carrying nearly three dozen Palestinian prisoners released by Israel arrived in the West Bank early Sunday, following Hamas' release of 13 Israelis and four foreigners in the second round of swaps under a cease-fire deal.

Hundreds of people burst into wild celebrations for a second night as the International Committee of the Red Cross bus arrived in Al Bireh.

Crowds chanted "God is great" as the bus arrived, and several young men stood on the roof of the vehicle. Many in the crowd held Hamas flags and chanted pro-Hamas slogans.

The teenage boys released in the deal were carried on the shoulders of well-wishers in the main square of the town. But the mood of celebration was dampened by scenes of destruction and suffering in Gaza.

Nurhan Awad received a hero's welcome from hundreds of people at the Qalandia refugee camp near Jerusalem when she arrived shortly after her release. The woman was 17 in 2016 when she was sentenced to 13½ years in jail for attempting to stab an Israeli soldier with a pair of scissors.

Released Palestinian woman Shurouq Duwiyat arrived at her home in Jerusalem where joyous family members hugged and kissed her.

"We send a message to our people in Gaza that we stand by your side and support you," Duwiyat told reporters inside her home.

Also in Jerusalem, Israeli troops evicted journalists who gathered outside the home of Israa Jaabis, who had been imprisoned since 2015 after being convicted of carrying out separate attacks on Israelis.

The late-night exchange was held up for several hours after Hamas accused Israel of violating the agreement. The delay underscored the fragility of the cease-fire, which has halted a war that has shocked and shaken Israel, caused widespread destruction across the Gaza Strip, and threatened to unleash wider fighting across the region.

On the first day of the cease-fire, Hamas released 24 of the roughly 240 hostages taken during its October 7 attack on Israel that triggered the war, and Israel freed 39 Palestinians from prison. Those freed in Gaza were 13 Israelis, 10 Thais and a Filipino.

Overall, Hamas is to release at least 50 Israeli hostages, and Israel 150 Palestinian prisoners, during the four-day truce — all women and minors.

Israel has said the truce can be extended an extra day for every additional 10 hostages freed — something U.S. President Joe Biden said he hoped would occur.