Israel and Hamas Reach Deal on Ceasefire, Release of Hostages

Israel and Hamas Reach Deal on Ceasefire, Release of Hostages

An agreement has been reached between Israel and Hamas to release at least 50 women and children currently being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza in exchange for a brief pause in fighting and the release of an unspecified number of Palestinian prisoners.

The deal was approved by Israel’s Cabinet during a tense, six-hour late-night session, according to Israeli media, and announced late Tuesday by the foreign ministry of Qatar, which had been, along with Egypt and the U.S., mediating negotiations for weeks. Hostages could start to be released as soon as Thursday, barring an Israeli Supreme Court challenge, which is not expected.

Not all details of the truce are yet publicized, but a statement by the Israeli government said that 50 hostages will be released over four days, during which there will be a “lull in fighting,” and that “the release of every 10 additional abductees will result in an additional day of respite.”

A senior Israeli official told Haaretz that Hamas will release 30 children, eight mothers, and 12 other women, all of whom are Israeli. Additional foreign nationals may be released as well, the official said, pending negotiations with other countries. A U.S. senior administration official briefing the media earlier on Tuesday said that three Americans may be released, including two women and a child named Abigail who turns four this month. “Today’s deal will bring home more American hostages,” U.S. President Joe Biden posted on X.

Israel, in turn, will free some 150 detained Palestinian women and children, according to the U.S. senior administration official. The head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Affairs Authority told Jordan’s Roya News on Tuesday that 350 jailed Palestinian minors and 82 jailed Palestinian women would be freed in the swap.

As part of the deal, Israel will also reportedly allow around 300 aid trucks to enter Gaza daily from Egypt, including the delivery of fuel during the pause, according to Axios. Israel has until now largely objected to the entry of fuel into Gaza out of concern that Hamas may seize it for military use. Israeli forces will remain in Gaza throughout any pause, not engaging in combat but “ready to act at any moment required,” according to Channel 12.

Before the Cabinet meeting, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized in a speech that, while there will be a pause in fighting, this does not mean an end to the war. “We will continue the war until we achieve all of our war aims: To eliminate Hamas, return all of our hostages and our missing, and ensure that there is no element in Gaza that threatens Israel,” he said. “We will not relent until we achieve the absolute victory.”

Netanyahu also noted Biden’s involvement in the deal, saying his intervention paved the way for Israel to increase the number of hostages released and to reduce the concessions made to Hamas.

During the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, more than 1,200 Israelis were killed and over 200 taken hostage. In the weeks since, Israel’s attacks on Gaza have killed more than 14,000 Palestinians, per the enclave’s health ministry, in what U.N. experts have called “a genocide in the making.”

Israel has faced division over what concessions should be made in order to secure the hostages’ release. Hamas previously freed four hostages in October: two Americans, mother-and-daughter Judith and Natalie Raanan, and two Israeli women, Nurit Cooper and Yocheved Lifshitz. While the Israeli government previously rejected international calls for a ceasefire, saying one would only be granted with the release of all hostages, relatives of hostages have advocated for an “all for all” deal in which all Palestinian prisoners held by Israel would be released in exchange for all hostages captured on Oct. 7.

This is a developing story.

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