Israel and Hamas yesterday agreed to a ceasefire in Gaza for at least four days, to let in aid and free at least 50 hostages held by militants in the Palestinian enclave in exchange for at least 150 Palestinians jailed in Israel.
The first truce since the war broke out on October 7 reached after mediation by Qatar, was hailed around the world as a sign of progress that could ease the suffering of civilians in Israeli-besieged Gaza and bring more Israeli captives home.
Arab ministers praised the agreement but said it should become a first step toward a full ceasefire. Israel said the ceasefire could be extended further if more hostages were freed, and a Palestinian source said as many as 100 hostages in total could be released by the end of the month.
Hamas and allied groups captured around 240 hostages when Islamist gunmen rampaged through southern Israeli towns on October 7. Previously, Hamas had released just four. The truce was not expected to begin until Thursday morning, and the start time had yet to be officially announced as at Wednesday night.
A statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office on Tuesday night said 50 women and children would be released over four days at a rate of at least 10 daily. Beyond that, the truce could be extended day by day as long as an additional 10 hostages were freed per day. Israel’s justice ministry published a list of 300 names of Palestinian prisoners who could be freed.
“Israel’s government is committed to return all the hostages home. Tonight, it approved the proposed deal as a first stage to achieving this goal,” said the government statement. Hamas said the initial 50 hostages would be released in exchange for 150 Palestinian women and children imprisoned in Israel.
Hundreds of trucks of humanitarian, medical and fuel supplies would enter Gaza, while Israel would halt all air attacks over southern Gaza and maintain a daily six-hour daytime no-fly window in the north, the enclave’s ruling Islamists said. Israel has subjected Gaza to siege and relentless bombardment since the Hamas attack, which killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli tallies. Since then, over 14,000 Gazans have been killed, around 40% of them children, according to medical officials in the territory.