Israel and Hamas agree to four-day ceasefire to swap hostages

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

November 22, 2023 07:30 am | Updated November 23, 2023 12:20 pm IST - JERUSALEM

Families and friends of about 240 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza call for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bring them home during a demonstration in Tel Aviv, Israel on November 21, 2023.

Families and friends of about 240 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza call for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bring them home during a demonstration in Tel Aviv, Israel on November 21, 2023. | Photo Credit: AP

Israel and Hamas agreed to a four-day ceasefire in the war in Gaza — a breakthrough that will facilitate the release of dozens of hostages held by militants as well as Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, and bring a large influx of aid to the besieged territory, officials said on Wednesday.

Qatar announced the deal, and Egypt’s state-run Qahera TV channel said the truce would take effect at 10 a.m. local time on Thursday. Both countries, along with the U.S., helped mediate the deal between Israel and Hamas.

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.

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’s fighting and governing abilities and the return of all hostages.

Residents in Gaza City said the fighting there intensified overnight into Wednesday, with gunfire, heavy artillery and airstrikes in central neighbourhoods.

Palestinian militants continued firing rockets at Israel throughout the day, without causing casualties.

The announcement capped weeks of indirect, stop-and-go negotiations to free some of the roughly 240 hostages taken by Hamas and other militants during their October 7 raid.

U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed the deal, saying Mr. Netanyahu committed to supporting an “extended pause.” Several nations, including Britain, France, China, and Russia, also welcomed the agreement.

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