Israel agrees to ceasefire deal, paving way for some captives’ release

Families of Israeli captives gathered outside the defence ministry in Tel Aviv [Ahmad Gharabli/AFP]

Details have not been made public, but the deal is likely to see the release of 50 women and children held captive in Gaza.

The Israeli cabinet has agreed to a temporary ceasefire deal that will enable the release of about 50 people who have been held captive in Gaza since the Hamas armed group stormed southern Israel on October 7.

The agreement came after talks on a Qatar-mediated deal that continued into the early hours of Wednesday morning, with Israeli media reporting heated exchanges between ministers of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

In the end, only three of the 38 members of the cabinet voted against the truce – National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and two other members of his far-right political party.

The prime minister’s office said the deal would require Hamas to release at least 50 women and children during a four day “pause in fighting”.  For every additional 10 hostages released, the pause would be extended by a day, it said, without mentioning the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange.

“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,” the statement said.

Hamas, which controls Gaza, also released a statement, confirming that 50 women and children currently held in the territory would be freed in exchange for Israel releasing 150 Palestinian women and children from Israeli jails.

It said that Israel would also stop all military actions in Gaza, and that hundreds of trucks carrying humanitarian, medical and fuel aid would be allowed into the territory.

The accord is the first truce of a war in which Israel has flattened vast swathes of Gaza, which is home to about 2.3 million people. Palestinian officials say at least 14,100 people have been killed, while the United Nations says about 1.7 million people have been forced from their homes. Hamas killed at least 1,200 people in its attack on Israel.

Officials from Qatar, as well as the United States, Israel and Hamas have for days been saying a deal was imminent.

Qatar is likely to make the formal announcement on the ceasefire with the first captives being released about 24 hours after that.

Ahead of the meeting to discuss the deal, Netanyahu stressed that Israel’s broader mission had not changed.

“We are at war and we will continue the war until we achieve all our goals,” he said in a recorded message. “To destroy Hamas, return all our hostages and ensure that no entity in Gaza can threaten Israel.”

Analysts said the international community should use the pause to try and secure an end to the fighting.

“In the coming days, more aid will come in, more fuel, hopefully more medical supplies and the most seriously injured can be evacuated, but beyond that, in these coming days of pause there needs to be massive pressure on Israel to not recommence the fighting at the end of this period,” Antony Loewenstein, an independent journalist and author based in Australia, told Al Jazeera. ”

About 237 captives from Israel and several other countries are thought to be in Gaza, but foreign nationals are not thought to be part of the agreement.

Hamas has released only four captives since the abductions took place more than a month ago – an American mother and her daughter, and two elderly Israeli women.

It has said some of the captives were killed in the Israeli bombardment.

The Al Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad group, which was also involved in Hamas’s October 7 raid said late on Tuesday that one of the Israelis it is holding captive had died.

“We previously expressed our willingness to release her for humanitarian reasons, but the enemy was stalling and this led to her death,” they said on their Telegram channel.



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