Protesters lift placards as they rally in Tel Aviv on November 18, 2023 to demand the release of Israelis held hostage in Gaza since the October 7 attack by Hamas militants, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian armed group.
Ahmad Gharabli | AFP | Getty Images
Israel and Hamas have agreed to a humanitarian pause, allowing 50 civilian hostages in the Gaza Strip to be released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, according to the government of Qatar.
Following mediation by the U.S., Qatar and Egypt, Israel’s government and Hamas militants have agreed to a temporary cease-fire that will last four days — and could be extended, the ministry of foreign affairs in Qatar said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“The humanitarian pause will also allow the entry of a larger number of humanitarian convoys and relief aid, including fuel designated for humanitarian needs,” Qatar said, adding that the start of pause will be announced in the next 24 hours.
“The agreement includes the release of 50 civilian women and children hostages currently held in the Gaza Strip in exchange for the release of a number of Palestinian women and children detained in Israeli prisons,” the ministry said.
More people could be released in the later stages of the agreement, the ministry added.
The major diplomatic breakthrough comes after weeks of conversations between the U.S., Qatar, Israel, Egypt and Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Hamas infiltrated southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people, including foreigners, and taking about 240 hostages into Gaza. In response to the terror attack, Israel launched air, sea and ground attacks on the coastal enclave which is run by Hamas. More than 14,000 Palestinians have so far been killed, according to Gaza’s media office which is run by Hamas.
Israeli cabinet members approved the deal just after 3 a.m. Wednesday in Jerusalem and said it would be the “first stage” of hostage release.
Before Qatar’s announcement, a senior U.S. administration official said late Tuesday the initial tranche of 50 hostages will be released over four days, during which Israel will pause its bombardment of Gaza to ensure their safe crossing.
The first wave of hostages could include three Americans, including one toddler, the official said.
The deal has built-in incentives to get more hostages out over time. The Israeli government said in a statement following the cabinet vote that as part of the deal, “the release of every additional ten hostages will result in one additional day in the pause.”
Separately, Hamas said in a statement that Israel had agreed to release 150 Palestinian women and child prisoners. Neither Qatar nor Israel mentioned the number of Palestinians who would be released in exchange for the hostages held by Hamas.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed news of the deal.
The four-day pause in fighting will allow for more humanitarian aid deliveries into Gaza where civilians are living in dire circumstances without sustained access to food, water, fuel and electricity. An average of 42 aid trucks per day have been sent into Gaza since Oct. 21.
Israel made it clear in its statement following the vote that the war would not end until all hostages were released and Hamas eliminated.
“Outside there is a lot of nonsense talk, as if after we cease (fire), for the release of the hostages, we will stop the war,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in opening remarks ahead of the cabinet meeting.
“I would like to clarify, we are at war, and we will continue to fight, continue to fight until we reach all our goals.”
— CNBC’s Joanna Tan contributed to the report.