Israel And Hamas Have Reached A Deal On A Cease-Fire And Hostages

(AP) — A temporary cease-fire agreement to facilitate the release of dozens of people taken hostage during Hamas’ raid on Israel is expected to bring the first respite to war-weary Palestinians in Gaza and a glimmer of hope to the families of the captives.

Israel and Hamas agreed to the four-day halt, which was announced Wednesday and will also see the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

The deal, brokered by Qatar, the US and Egypt, was made public as fighting intensified in central neighbourhoods of Gaza City. Egypt’s state-run Qahera TV channel said the truce would take effect Thursday morning local time.

It caps weeks of fitful indirect negotiations and sets the stage for a tense period that could determine the course of the war, which was set off by Hamas’ October 7 raid and has killed more than 11,000 Palestinians, according to health authorities. Hamas and other militant groups abducted some 240 and killed at least 1,200 people.

Israel, Hamas and Qatar have released different details of the agreement, but those details do not appear to contradict each other.

Qatar announced Wednesday that Hamas will release 50 hostages in exchange for what Hamas said would be 150 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. Those released by both sides will be women and minors.

The hostages would be released in bursts throughout the cease-fire. Once the first batch is released, Israel is expected to free the first group of Palestinian prisoners.

Those up for release include many teenage boys detained during a wave of violence in the West Bank in 2022 or 2023 and charged with offences such as stone-throwing or disturbing public order, according to a list of eligible prisoners published by Israel’s Justice Ministry. Israel currently holds nearly 7,000 Palestinians accused or convicted of security offences.

Israel said the truce would be extended by a day for every 10 additional hostages released.

Qatar said Israel would also allow more fuel and humanitarian aid into Gaza, but did not provide details.

Hamas said hundreds of trucks carrying humanitarian aid and fuel are to be allowed to enter Gaza every day as part of the deal. Supplies would also reach northern Gaza, the focus of Israel’s ground offensive, for the first time, Hamas said.

Israel’s government statement did not refer to increased aid and fuel deliveries. Israeli Channel 12 TV reported that as part of the deal, Israel will allow a “significant” amount of fuel and humanitarian supplies into Gaza, but did not specify how much. Israel has severely limited the amount of aid, especially fuel, allowed into Gaza during the war, prompting dire shortages of water, food and fuel to run generators.

The fighting is expected to come to a temporary halt: Israeli jets and troops will hold their fire, while militants are expected to refrain from firing rockets at Israel.

Hamas said Israel’s warplanes would stop flying over southern Gaza during the four-day truce and for six hours daily over the north. Israel made no mention of halting flights, and it wasn’t clear if this would include its sophisticated intelligence drones, which have been a constant presence over Gaza.