End In Sight As Israel, Hamas Agree Four-Day Truce For Hostages’ Release, Aid Into Gaza
Israel’s government and Hamas agreed on Wednesday to a four-day pause in fighting to allow the release of 50 hostages held in Gaza in exchange for 150 Palestinians imprisoned in Israel, and the entry of humanitarian aid into the besieged enclave.
Officials from Qatar and Egypt which have been mediating secret negotiations with Israel and Hamas have for days been saying a deal was imminent.
A statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said 50 women and children will be released over four days, during which there will be a pause in fighting.
For every additional 10 hostages released, the pause would be extended by another day, it said, without mentioning the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange.
“Israel’s government is committed to returning all the hostages home. Tonight, it approved the proposed deal as a first stage to achieving this goal,” said the statement.
Hamas is believed to be holding more than 200 hostages, taken when its fighters surged into Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies.
Hamas said the 50 hostages would be released in exchange for 150 Palestinian women and children who are held in Israeli jails. The truce deal will also allow hundreds of trucks of humanitarian, medical and fuel aid to enter Gaza, the Palestinian group said in a statement.
Israel had committed not to attack or arrest anyone in all parts of Gaza during the truce period, it added.
U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed the deal.
“Today’s deal should bring home additional American hostages, and I will not stop until they are all released,” Biden said in a statement.
The Qatar government said 50 civilian women and children hostages would be released from Gaza in exchange for the release “of a number of Palestinian women and children held in Israeli prisons”.
The starting time of the truce would be announced within the next 24 hours, it said in a statement.
Israel’s justice ministry posted a list of about 300 Palestinian prisoners slated for release, a publication that appeared intended to allow for any last-minute legal challenges.
The accord is the first truce of a war in which Israeli bombardments have flattened swathes of Hamas-ruled Gaza, killed 13,300 civilians in the tiny densely populated enclave and left about two-thirds of its 2.3 million people homeless, according to authorities in Gaza.
But Netanyahu said Israel’s broader mission was unchanged.
“We are at war and we will continue the war until we achieve all our goals. To destroy Hamas, return all our hostages and ensure that no entity in Gaza can threaten Israel,” he said in a recorded message at the start of the government meeting.
Hamas said in its statement: “As we announce the striking of a truce agreement, we affirm that our fingers remain on the trigger, and our victorious fighters will remain on the lookout to defend our people and defeat the occupation.”
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