Israel and Hamas agree to pause fighting

Israel’s government has agreed to back a deal with Hamas for the release of some hostages in Gaza and a temporary pause in the fighting.

The agreement involves swapping the hostages for Palestinian prisoners being detained in Israel.

The prime minister’s office said the deal involves the release of 50 women and children being held in Gaza by Hamas over a period of four days during which there will be a pause in the fighting.

The government said it would extend the lull by an additional day for every 10 hostages released.

Israel-Gaza latest: Israel approves ceasefire and hostage release with Hamas

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‘We will not relent until hostages released’

Hamas said it and Israel had agreed to a four-day pause in hostilities in Gaza.

The group said it agreed to release around 50 women and children hostages from Gaza in exchange for Israel releasing 150 Palestinian women and children from Israeli jails.

Key points of the deal according to statements by Israel and Hamas:
• 50 Israeli women and children held by Hamas in Gaza to be released over four days during which there will be a pause in the fighting
• For every additional 10 hostages released thereafter there will be another day’s pause in the fighting
• 150 Palestinian women and people under the age of 19 held in Israeli prisons to be freed
• Humanitarian relief, medical and fuel aid to be allowed into all areas of the Gaza Strip
• Aerial surveillance by Israel to halt for four days in the south of the Gaza Strip
• Aerial surveillance by Israel to halt for six hours a day from 10am to 4pm for four days in the north of the Gaza Strip
• During the truce period, Israel is committed not to attack or arrest anyone in all areas of the Gaza Strip

Analysis: Vote is a major step in the right direction, but it remains a very fragile situation

It is the most significant diplomatic breakthrough since the conflict began on 7 October.

Under the deal air traffic would stop daily for six hours in the north of Gaza during the four-day ceasefire and Israel committed not to attack nor arrest anyone in all parts of Gaza during the truce period.

In a statement the Israeli government said: “The government of Israel is obligated to return home all of the hostages.

“Tonight, the government has approved the outline of the first stage of achieving this goal, according to which at least 50 hostages – women and children – will be released over four days, during which a pause in the fighting will be held.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his special war cabinet earlier – followed by planned meetings of the broader security cabinet and then the full cabinet to discuss “the issue of the release of hostages”.

The various bodies are required to approve important government decisions.

Ahead of the vote Mr Netanyahu said Israel would resume its offensive against Hamas after the ceasefire expires.

He said the intervention of US President Joe Biden had helped improve the tentative agreement so it included more hostages and fewer concessions.

But he said Israel’s broader mission had not changed: “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 no entity in Gaza can threaten Israel.”

Read more:
Analysis: Vote is a major step in the right direction, but it remains a very fragile situation

Smoke rises after Israeli air strikes in Gaza, as seen from southern Israel, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, November 20, 2023. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko
Gaza has been devastated in the fighting

Gaza war has devastated territory and left hundreds of thousands displaced

For weeks, Qatar had been mediating talks between Israel and the Palestinian militant group that governs the Gaza Strip.

Israel says Hamas took 242 hostages during its attack on 7 October and killed 1,200 people.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says more than 13,000 Palestinians have been killed since Israel retaliated in an offensive that has devastated swathes of the territory and left hundreds of thousands displaced.

Among the hostages in Gaza are about 37 children, according to The Hostage and Missing Families Forum – a group set up to demand the return of those kidnapped by Hamas.

Up until now, Hamas has released four hostages, Israel has rescued one, and the bodies of two others were found near al Shifa hospital.

Israel expands operations across northern Gaza

On the ground, Israeli troops have been battling Hamas militants as they expanded their operations across northern Gaza, where residents have been without electricity, water or access to humanitarian aid for weeks.

Tens of thousands of others have fled south through corridors announced by the military.

The frontline of the war, now in its seventh week, has shifted to the Jabaliya camp, a dense warren of concrete buildings near Gaza City.

Israel has been bombarding the area for weeks, and the military said Hamas fighters have regrouped there and in other eastern districts after being pushed out of much of Gaza City.

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