Israel and Hamas agree to four-day ceasefire for hostage and prisoner exchange

In the early morning hours on Wednesday, Israel and Hamas separately announced an agreement to halt fighting for a four-day period so that Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners can be exchanged. The hostage deal, the first of the war, would not begin until Thursday at the earliest and would represent the longest pause in fighting since Hamas’ attack on Oct. 7.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the deal on Wednesday in a statement. The agreement calls for 50 Israeli hostages, mostly women and children, to be returned in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners – something Hamas termed as a “humanitarian truce.” It will take place over a period of four days with each 10 abductees returned resulting in “one additional day of respite,” according to Israel. The agreement still needs to be reviewed by Israeli courts and until the actual exchanges begin, the situation remains unstable.

“The Israeli government is committed to bringing all the abductees home,” Israel’s statement read. “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.”

Aside from returning 150 Palestinian prisoners, Israel will also provide additional fuel and humanitarian aid in Gaza. Then fighting is scheduled to resume, according to Israel, to “complete the elimination of Hamas.”

“The Israeli government, the IDF and the security forces will continue the war to return all the abductees, complete the elimination of Hamas and ensure that Gaza does not renew any threat to the State of Israel,” Israel said in the statement.

The ceasefire, which was completed with Qatar and Egypt acting as mediators, will reportedly include a halt on the ground as well as Israeli air operations over southern Gaza.

“After many days of difficult and complex negotiations, we announce, with the help and blessing of God, that we have reached a humanitarian truce,” Hamas said in a statement on Telegram. “The provisions of this agreement were formulated according to the vision of the resistance and its determinants that aim to serve our people and enhance their steadfastness in the face of aggression.”

In all, Hamas captured approximately 240 Israeli hostages – leaving another 190 or so hostages unspoken for in this first agreement. Hamas killed upwards of 1,200 people in that Oct. 7 attack and Israel has responded with air and ground assaults that have resulted in the death of at least 10,000 more in southern Gaza over the last six weeks.

In a statement, President Biden said Wednesday’s deal should bring home additional American hostages held by Hamas, and drove home the point that this deal should be “carried through in its entirety” and “it’s important all aspects of this deal be fully implemented.”

“I welcome the deal to secure the release of hostages taken by the terrorist group Hamas during its brutal assault against Israel on October 7th,” Biden wrote. “I am extraordinarily gratified that some of these brave souls, who have endured weeks of captivity and an unspeakable ordeal, will be reunited with their families once this deal is fully implemented.”

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