Israel-Hamas ceasefire to start on Thursday morning

22 November 2023, 14:04

Israel Palestinians
Israel Palestinians. Picture: PA

A four-day pause in fighting will begin at 8am GMT, Egyptian state TV and Israeli media said.

The Israel-Hamas truce will take effect from 10am local time (8am GMT) on Thursday, Egypt’s state-run Qahera TV said.

Egypt helped mediate the four-day ceasefire, which will facilitate the release of dozens of hostages captured by Hamas during its October 7 attack on southern Israel.

The deal will also see the release of dozens of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and the entry of more humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Israeli media also reported that the truce would begin at 10am local time on Thursday.

The breakthrough agreement between Israel and Hamas has raised hopes of eventually winding down the war.

Now in its seventh week, the conflict has levelled vast swathes of Gaza, fuelled a surge of violence in the occupied West Bank, and stirred fears of a wider conflagration across the Middle East.

The Persian Gulf nation of Qatar announced the deal, before Egypt’s state-run Qahera TV channel outlined the timing of the truce. Both countries have played a key role in mediating between Israel and Hamas.

Palestinian bombing
Palestinians evacuate survivors of the Israeli bombing in Rafah (AP)

Fifty hostages will be freed in stages, in exchange for the release of what Hamas said would be 150 Palestinian prisoners. Both sides will let go women and children first, and the supply of humanitarian aid flowing into the besieged territory will be ramped up.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would resume the war after the truce and keep fighting “until we achieve all our goals”, including the destruction of Hamas’ fighting and governing abilities and the return of all hostages.

Residents in Gaza City said the fighting there had intensified overnight into Wednesday, with gunfire, heavy artillery and air strikes in central areas.

Israel-Hamas war: reported Israeli ground operations
(PA Graphics)

Nasser al-Sheikh, who is sheltering with relatives in the Sheikh Radwan area, said of the Israelis: “Apparently they want to advance before the truce.”

The announcement capped weeks of indirect Qatari-led negotiations between Israel and Hamas, an Islamic militant group that seized Gaza from the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority in 2007 and has governed it since.

The United States and Egypt were also involved in sporadic talks to free some of the roughly 240 hostages captured by Hamas and other militants during their October 7 raid.

US President Joe Biden welcomed the deal, saying Mr Netanyahu has committed to supporting an “extended pause” to make sure that the hostages are released and humanitarian aid can be sent to Gaza.

Qatar’s Prime Minister and top diplomat, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, said he hoped the deal would eventually lead to a permanent cease-fire and “serious talks” on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Hamas captives' families
Families of people believed abducted by Hamas have pleaded for their release (AP)

Israel said that the truce would be extended an extra day for every additional 10 hostages released by Hamas. The International Committee of the Red Cross said it can assist with any release.

Israel’s justice ministry published a list of 300 prisoners eligible for release as part of the deal, mainly teenagers detained over the past year for rock-throwing and other minor offences. Under Israeli law, the public has 24 hours to object to any release.

The Israeli military says it has detained more than 1,850 Palestinians in the West Bank since the war began, mostly suspected Hamas members. More than 200 Palestinians have been killed there, frequently during gun battles triggered by army raids.

The drawn-out process of releasing hostages will force Israel to rein in its offensive and could ultimately mean it ends the war without achieving its goal of crushing Hamas.

The devastation has already galvanised international criticism of Israel, and even the US, its closest ally, has expressed concern about the heavy toll on Gaza’s civilians.

Wrecked buildings
Widespread destruction followed the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip (AP)

An air strike overnight hit a residential building in the southern town of Khan Younis, killing 17 people, including children, said Ahmad Balouny, a relative of the deceased. An Associated Press reporter saw the bodies of two children pulled from the rubble, one of them badly burned.

In northern Gaza, about 60 bodies and 200 people wounded by heavy fighting were brought into the Kamal Adwan Hospital overnight, hospital director Dr Ahmed al-Kahlout told Al-Jazeera television on Wednesday. He said the hospital is using cooking oil to keep its generator running.

The Al-Aqsa Hospital in central Gaza said 128 bodies were brought in overnight after nearby strikes, more than double the number that arrived on Tuesday night.

Despite the heavy toll on Palestinian civilians, Hamas leader Yehya Sinwar will likely present the release of the prisoners – seen by most Palestinians as heroes resisting occupation – as a major achievement, and will declare victory if the war ends.

Hamas said hundreds of trucks carrying humanitarian aid – including fuel – would be allowed to enter Gaza, and that Israeli aircraft would limit their operations during the ceasefire.

The war erupted in early October, when several thousand Hamas militants broke through Israel’s formidable defences and poured into the south, killing at least 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking scores more captive.

Israel responded with weeks of devastating air strikes on Gaza, followed by a ground invasion.

More than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed during the Israeli offensive, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory. It does not differentiate between civilians and militants, though some two-thirds of the dead have been identified as women and minors.

The ministry said that as of November 11 it had lost the ability to count the dead because of the collapse of large parts of the health system, but believes the number has risen sharply since then. Some 2,700 people are missing and believed to be buried under rubble.

More than 1.7 million Palestinians have been displaced in the war, and many, if not most, will be unable to return home because of the vast damage in the north and the continued presence of Israeli troops there.

The war has also led to severe shortages of food, medicine and other basics throughout the territory. Israel cut off all fuel imports at the start of the war, causing a territory-wide power blackout.

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

Canada Obit Mulroney

Former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney dies aged 84

Scandinavian Airlines medevac plane

Medical evacuation plane lands on island where Norwegian King is in hospital

Alec Baldwin Set Shooting

Assistant director says armourer handed gun to Alec Baldwin before fatal shot

Iran Election

Question marks over turnout as Iran heads to the polls

New Zealand Volcano Trial

Tour operators told to pay £6.27m over volcanic eruption

Israel Palestinians Rafah Photo Gallery

Israeli troops ‘fire on people waiting for aid’ as Gaza death tolls hits 30,000

Bangladesh Fire

Dozens killed in fire at shopping centre in Bangladesh capital

Former Ambassador Arrested

Former career US diplomat admits spying for Cuban intelligence for decades

Donald Trump

Trump appeals against decision to remove his name from Illinois primary ballot

The man was found at his home in Herne, Germany.

Horror as man found with ‘penis bitten off and eaten by pet dog’ after neighbours reported relentless barking

Russia Ukraine War

Russian onslaught targets more Ukrainian towns and villages

Sergei Sokolov

Editor of top independent Russian newspaper detained for ‘discrediting military’

Texas Wildfires

Huge wildfire grows to become largest in history of Texas

Nicaragua Crackdown Scouts

Nicaragua crackdown ‘tantamount to crimes against humanity’ – UN

Paris Atmosphere – Liverpool v Real Madrid – UEFA Champions League Final

Leap-year newspaper raises money and laughs in France

Paul Pogba has been banned

Paul Pogba banned from football for four years after ex-Manchester United star failed drugs test