Israel, Hamas Reach Deal on Truce, Hostage Release

Israel’s Cabinet approved a Qatari-brokered ceasefire and hostage-release deal with the Hamas terrorist group early Wednesday morning, the Israeli government announced.

The deal will see at least 50 of the 240 hostages, exclusively women and children, released over four days, “during which there will be a lull in the fighting.” The Israeli government said that an additional “day of respite” will be added for every 10 hostages released.

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

Hamas and U.S. officials said the deal includes the release of 150 Palestinian detainees from Israeli prisons, who are also all women and children. Additionally, the deal stipulates that the four-day pause in fighting will allow for an increase in humanitarian aid to Gaza.

U.S. President Joe Biden thanked Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani of Qatar and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi for “their leadership” in reaching the deal and pledged that he “will not stop” until all American hostages are released.

“I appreciate the commitment that [Israeli] Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and his government have made in supporting an extended pause to ensure this deal can be fully carried out and to ensure the provision of additional humanitarian assistance to alleviate the suffering of innocent Palestinian families in Gaza,” President Biden said in a statement.

“I look forward to speaking with each of these leaders and staying in close contact as we work to ensure this deal is carried through in its entirety,” he continued. “It is important that all aspects of this deal be fully implemented.”

The deal was the result of weeks of extensive negotiations involving the United States, Qatar, Egypt, Hamas, and Israel, according to the White House.

“The president has been directly and personally engaged in this process throughout, almost hour by hour,” a senior administration official told reporters during a call previewing the deal.

There were an estimated 236 hostages taken by Hamas terrorists to Gaza after their deadly cross-border attack on Israelis on Oct. 7, which sparked the war. Nearly a dozen U.S. citizens were thought to be among the hostages.

“As President, I have no higher priority than ensuring the safety of Americans held hostage around the world,” President Biden said. “That’s why—from the earliest moments of Hamas’s brutal assault—my national security team and I have worked closely with regional partners to do everything possible to secure the release of our fellow citizens.”

According to the White House, three Americans are anticipated to be released as part of the deal, including a 3-year-old girl whose parents were killed on Oct. 7.

“The deal is now structured for women and children in the first phase, but with an expectation for further releases,” a senior administration official told reporters on Tuesday.

Hostages Released

If the agreement is reached Tuesday night, the first hostages will be released over the course of Thursday, the official said.

The announcement came after media reports stated that Israel and Hamas were close to reaching an agreement to pause their conflict, which is currently in its sixth week, in exchange for the release of hostages.

Qatar has served as a mediator in the negotiations between Hamas and Israel. Earlier, Qatar Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed Al-Ansari said the hostage release proposal was sent to Israel on Tuesday.

“The State of Qatar is awaiting the result of the Israeli government’s vote on the proposal,” Mr. Al-Ansari said.

Mr. Netanyahu pledged that the Israeli offensive against Hamas would start as soon as the truce ended. Prior to the announcement of the hostage release deal, he summoned his war cabinet to vote on the deal.

“We are at war and we will continue the war until we achieve all our goals: to destroy Hamas, return all our hostages, and ensure that nobody in Gaza can threaten Israel,” he said during the cabinet meeting.

At least 1,200 civilians and soldiers were killed in Israel after Hamas terrorists launched a surprise attack on Oct. 7.

Since then, Israel has conducted a military campaign in Gaza. According to Gaza’s health ministry, which is run by Hamas, that campaign has killed more than 14,000 Palestinians.

Mr. Netanyahu has been pushing back against international calls for a ceasefire. In a recent televised address, he vowed that Israel would keep fighting with “full force” until all Hamas terrorists in Gaza are eliminated.

The Israeli leader also declared that after the war, Gaza will be demilitarized and Israel will retain security control, suggesting that Israeli forces will be able to freely enter Gaza to hunt down terrorists.

Israel has accused Hamas of using hospitals to conceal military command as well as using hospital patients as human shields. Both Hamas and the hospitals in Gaza have denied these allegations.

The White House confirmed last week that the terrorist group has a command node beneath Gaza’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa, where weapons are stored, calling it “a war crime.”

From The Epoch Times

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