Israel and Hamas agree to temporary pause in fighting for release of 50 hostages and aid into Gaza; Netanyahu says war to continue

Israel and Hamas agree to temporary pause in fighting for release of 50 hostages and aid into Gaza; Netanyahu says war to continue

Jerusalem, Nov 22 (PTI) Israel and Hamas agreed on Wednesday to a temporary four-day ceasefire to allow the release of 50 hostages held by the militant group in Gaza in exchange for 150 Palestinian detainees and the entry of humanitarian aid into the besieged territory.

The deal, once implemented, will be the first major diplomatic breakthrough and pause in fighting since the war began after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7.

The announcement comes amid a strong assertion from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the 'war will continue until all our goals are achieved'.

Following a marathon six-hour meeting in Tel Aviv that ended in the early hours of Wednesday morning, the Israeli Cabinet approved a deal mediated by Qatar, Egypt and the United States by a 35-3 vote with ministers from the extreme right-wing Otzma Yehudit party of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir voting against.

The Cabinet meeting was preceded by the meetings of the War Cabinet and the Security Cabinet.

A PMO statement said that 50 women and children held hostage in Gaza 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.

“The Israeli government is committed to the return of all abductees home”, a statement on behalf of the government said.

“Tonight, the government approved the outline for the first stage of achieving this goal, according to which at least 50 abductees — women and children — will be released for four days, during which there will be a lull in the fighting. The release of every 10 additional abductees will result in an additional day of respite,” it added.

The implementation of the deal cannot start until about 24 hours after final approval as Israeli law gives the public a day to appeal against the agreement in the Supreme Court.

Local media speculated that the first exchange could already happen on Thursday morning.

Israel has released a list of 300 Palestinians that could be released under the deal struck between Israel and Hamas.

The list, posted on Israel's justice ministry website, includes the names, ages and offences of those eligible.

Only 150 detainees are expected to be released at first.

Qatar, whose capital Doha serves as the headquarters for Hamas, confirmed that an agreement for a temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has been reached and the start time will be announced in the next 24 hours.

The lull in violence will last for four days after it starts, it said.

A statement early on Wednesday from Qatar’s foreign ministry described the talks that produced the agreement as a mediation effort by Egypt, the US and Qatar for a “humanitarian pause”.

“The starting time of the pause will be announced within the next 24 hours and last for four days, subject to extension,” the statement said.

“The agreement includes the release of 50 civilian women and children hostages currently held in the Gaza Strip in exchange for the release of a number of Palestinian women and children detained in Israeli prisons, the number of those released will be increased in later stages of implementing the agreement,” it said.

It also added that the ceasefire will “allow the entry of a larger number of humanitarian convoys and relief aid, including fuel designated for humanitarian needs”.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu insisted before entering the Cabinet meeting that the deal was a result of the pressure Hamas felt due to Israel's military campaign and asserted that the war would continue until the goals set are achieved - to eliminate Hamas, secure the release of all the hostages, and ensure that there’s no more threat from Gaza to Israel’s security.

“We are at war, and the war will continue until all our goals are achieved,” the Israeli PM said.

The return of hostages is a top, “sacred priority and I am committed to it,” Netanyahu emphasised adding, “Before us is a difficult decision but the right one”.

“We will not rest until everyone is returned. The war has stages and the return of the hostages will have stages”, he argued.

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant backed his Prime Minister, saying Israel’s ground offensive in Gaza is a key factor in “dialling up the pressure” on Hamas to negotiate and release some of the 240 hostages taken from Israel on October 7.

“Without the pressure and the continued pressure [on Hamas], there will be no chance” to secure the release of the next groups of hostages, Gallant said, vowing that once the 4-5 day ceasefire is over Israel’s operations in Gaza will resume “in full force”.

“I will say honestly – this [hostage deal] is a difficult outline, it is painful, but it is also right,” War cabinet minister Benny Gantz said.

The US official said the hostages released by Hamas were expected to include several Americans.

“I thank Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani of Qatar and President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi of Egypt for their critical leadership and partnership in reaching this deal,” US President Joe Biden said in a statement.

“And I appreciate the commitment that Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government have made in supporting an extended pause to ensure this deal can be fully carried out and to ensure the provision of additional humanitarian assistance to alleviate the suffering of innocent Palestinian families in Gaza,' he said.

Israel began attacking Gaza after Hamas fighters crossed the border on 7 October, killing 1,200 people and taking more than 200 others hostage Gaza's Hamas-run health ministry says more than 14,000 people - including more than 5,000 children - have been killed in Israel's campaign. PTI HM NSA AKJ NSA NSA

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