German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has reacted with relief to the release of the first hostages held by the terrorist organisation Hamas. "I am immensely pleased that the first hostages, including German hostages, have begun, including the two little girls whose father sat in front of me here in Bellevue Palace just a few weeks ago, full of despair," Steinmeier said in a video message on his forthcoming visit to Israel.

He thanked the mediators. At the same time, Steinmeier stressed: "The only way to end the fighting will and can only be through the release of the hostages. All hostages!"

"Solidarity with Israel that is fighting back"

The Federal President will fly to Israel this Sunday for a two-day visit. He accepts an invitation from President Izchak Herzog. Both heads of state are close friends. Steinmeier will be accompanied by his wife Elke Büdenbender. He will then travel on to Oman and Qatar.

Steinmeier begins his message with a rhetorical question: "A visit to Israel now?" And he continues: "Yes, right now! I'm going tomorrow to assure Israel of our continued solidarity – solidarity not only with Israel as a victim of terror, but also with Israel fighting back."

The visitor to Bellevue Palace, Yoni Asher, has published a video message himself. In a film posted on Facebook, Asher said he was happy that his German wife and their two daughters were released from captivity in the Gaza Strip on Friday. But he adds that he won't celebrate until all the abductees return.

He released the video in Hebrew late Friday night. He said he wanted to help his family recover from the horrific trauma they had suffered. "There are still difficult days ahead of me."

"Don't give up until the last abductee returns to our house."

Following the start of the ceasefire in the Gaza war, a first group of 24 hostages – 13 Israelis and 11 foreigners – who had been abducted to the Gaza Strip seven weeks ago were released on Friday. Among them are four dual nationals who also have German citizenship.

Those released were initially taken to hospitals in Israel. A children's hospital published a photo of the reunion of the German-Israeli family. In the footage circulated by the media, the four can be seen hugging each other and the mother smiling. According to Israeli media, she and the two children were kidnapped from the grandmother's house. The grandmother herself was murdered by terrorists in the Hamas massacre on October 7.

Other families of freedmen also turned to the public with similar messages: "Don't give up until the last abductee returns to our home," said Edva, Alon and Orian, Yaffe Ader's grandchildren. He, too, returned to Israel on Friday after 49 days in Hamas captivity. Like Asher, they express their gratitude for the support of the Israeli people. Asher emphasizes that as of today, the families of all hostages are his new family: "I will do everything I can to make sure that the last hostage returns home safely."

An Israeli family reports that their father's Filipino caregiver has now returned; the father himself had been killed in the Hamas attacks. "Kibbutz Nir Oz welcomes the return of 33-year-old Gelienor Pacheco from the Philippines," they wrote. "Jimmy was the devoted caretaker of the late Amitai Ben Zvi of Nir Oz, who was slaughtered in his home during the horrific attack."