Israel-Hamas war temporary truce sets stage for exchange of hostages

24 November 2023, 10:14

Israel Palestinians
Israel Palestinians. Picture: PA

The first hostages are expected to be free on Friday, with the ceasefire scheduled to last four days.

A temporary truce in the Israel-Hamas war came into effect early on Friday, setting the stage for the exchange of dozens of hostages held by militants in Gaza for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.

There were no reports of fighting in the hours after the truce began.

That promised some relief for Gaza’s 2.3 million people, who have endured weeks of Israeli bombardment and dwindling supplies of basic necessities, as well as families in Israel fearful for the fate of loved ones taken captive during Hamas’s October 7 attack which triggered the war.

During the truce, Gaza’s ruling Hamas group pledged to free at least 50 of the about 240 hostages it and other militants took in their attack.

In turn, Israel is to free three Palestinian prisoners for each released hostage. The releases are to take place in stages over the next four days.

The truce deal was reached after weeks of intense indirect negotiations, with Qatar, the United States, and Egypt serving as mediators. If it holds, it would mark the first significant break in fighting since Israel declared war on Hamas seven weeks ago.

Qatari foreign ministry spokesman Majed al-Ansari said the first 13 hostages, made up of women and children, will be freed by Hamas on Friday afternoon.

Israel Palestinians
A member of Israeli security forces looks at posters of children held hostage by Hamas in the Gaza Strip (Maya Alleruzzo/AP)

He did not say how many Palestinian prisoners would be freed, but officials have said three would be freed for every hostage.

Under the truce deal, 50 hostages are supposed to be freed in stages, in exchange for the release of what Hamas said would be 150 Palestinian prisoners. Israel said the truce would be extended an extra day for every additional 10 hostages freed.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said it notified the families of hostages listed for release Friday.

Mr al-Ansari, who said increased aid for Palestinians will start to enter Gaza “as soon as possible”, said the hope is the “momentum” from this deal will lead to an “end to this violence.”

Israel Palestinians
Palestinians inspect the rubble of a destroyed building in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in Nusseirat refugee camp (Adel Hana/AP)

Hamas said 200 trucks a day will enter Gaza carrying aid. Qatar said the aid will include fuel, but has given no details on quantities.

Mr Netanyahu vowed to continue the war after the truce expires, with the goal of destroying Hamas’ military capabilities, ending its 16-year rule in Gaza and returning all of the estimated 240 captives held in Gaza by Hamas and other groups.

“We will continue it until we achieve all our goals,” Mr Netanyahu said, adding that he had delivered the same message in a phone call to US President Joe Biden.

Washington has provided extensive military and diplomatic support to Israel since the start of the war.

Israel Defence Forces spokesman Avichay Adraee backed up Mr Netanyahu’s view that the ceasefire was not designed to last in a video posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“The war is not over yet. The humanitarian pause is temporary,” he said. “The northern Gaza Strip is a dangerous war zone and it is forbidden to move north. For your safety, you must remain in the humanitarian zone in the south.”

The Israeli military dropped leaflets over southern Gaza, warning hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians who sought refuge there not to try to return to their homes in the northern half of the territory; the focus of Israel’s ground offensive.

Israel has said it would block attempts to return.

By Press Association

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