Israel accepts truce, Hamas agreement to release hostages

 Israel accepted Tuesday the agreement with the Islamist group Hamas for the release of 50 kidnapped people in the Gaza Strip, in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners and a four-day truce.

Hours before the announcement, Hamas had already said “the ball” was “in Israel’s court” after the group informed mediators in Qatar and Egypt of its position on the agreement.

All members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government voted in favor of the exchange and truce except the three ministers of the Jewish Power party of the far-right and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir.

Without details on the terms of the agreement, which Qatar is expected to announce in the next few hours, information leaked to Israeli media said the pact includes the release of at least 50 hostages. These are mostly children and their mothers, with the possibility that the number will expand to 80, in addition to a ceasefire of at least four days, which could be extended for several more days.

Hamas would take the hostages to Egypt through the Rafah crossing in daily groups of about 10 and, before being transferred to Israel.

Israel must release some 150 Palestinian prisoners, also mostly women and minors who are not convicted of blood crimes.

In a brief statement published after Tuesday’s meeting, Israel said that “it is obliged to return all the hostages home.”

“The Israeli government is committed to bringing all the abductees home. Tonight, the government approved the outline for the first stage of achieving this goal, under which at least 50 abductees – women and children – will be released over a span of four days, during which there will be a lull in the fighting,” the statement read, adding that for every 10 additional hostages released, there will be one more day of pause.

According to local media, the army agrees not to fly over the Gaza Strip for six hours a day while the truce is in force to allow Hamas to locate hostages held by other armed groups, such as Islamic Jihad.

Estimates say Hamas is holding between 210 and 240 hostages, while the Palestinian Islamic Jihad is holding about 30.

The agreement would also include, according to the Hebrew press, the entry into the Gaza Strip, including the northern part, of 100 to 300 trucks with food and medical aid, as well as fuel.

According to Israeli public television, the temporary cessation of hostilities will begin Thursday to allow 24 hours for the presentation of possible appeals to the government decision before the Supreme Court.

No soldiers or men will be released nor will the bodies of deceased hostages be recovered. However, the media said they could exchange elderly men and hostages with foreign nationality.

Another point highlighted by the Israeli press is that Hamas must provide the names of the people released one day in advance.

Netanyahu said before the government meeting that the agreement includes that the Red Cross would visit hostages and offer them medical help.

Before his Cabinet discussions, the prime minister said accepting this agreement, which according to Hamas has been under discussion for a month, “is a difficult decision, but it is the right decision.”

Netanyahu said the truce does not mean the end of the offensive, which has caused more than 14,000 deaths, of which more than 5,000 are children.

“There is a lot of nonsense out there to the effect that after the pause to return our hostages, we will stop the war. Then let me make it clear: We are at war — and will continue the war,” he said before the meeting. “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.”

The ceasefire comes after weeks of increasing pressure from the international community and major international organizations, such as the United Nations, to stop the incessant attacks, which have displaced more than 1.5 million.

Israel declared war on Hamas following the attack launched by the Islamist group against Israel on Oct. 7, in which more than 1,200 people were killed and 240 were kidnapped and taken to Gaza

by Nadeem Faisal Baiga