Israel and Hamas have agreed to a four-day halt in their devastating war in exchange for the release of dozens of hostages taken captive by militants on Oct. 7, when Israeli communities were overrun and some 240 people abducted.
The agreement will bring the first respite to war-weary Palestinians in Gaza, where more than 11,000 people, many women and children, have been killed. It could also offer a glimmer of hope to the families of those abducted weeks ago.
The deal, brokered by Qatar, the U.S. and Egypt, was announced as fighting intensified in central neighborhoods of Gaza City. It caps weeks of fitful indirect negotiations and sets the stage for a tense period that could determine the course of the war, already in its seventh week.
Israel, Hamas and Qatar have released different details of the agreement, but those details do not appear to contradict each other.
WHAT'S IN THE DEAL?
Qatar announced Wednesday that Hamas will release 50 hostages in exchange for what Hamas said would be 150 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. Those released by both sides will be women and minors.
The hostages would be released in bursts throughout the four-day cease-fire. Once the first batch is released, Israel is expected to free the first group of Palestinian prisoners.
Those up for release include many teen-age boys detained during a wave of violence in the West Bank in 2022 or 2023 and charged with offenses such as stone-throwing or disturbing public order, according to a list of eligible prisoners published by Israel's Justice Ministry on Wednesday. Israel currently holds nearly 7,000 Palestinians accused or convicted of security offenses.
Israel said the truce would be extended by a day for every 10 additional hostages released.
Qatar said Israel would also allow more fuel and humanitarian aid into Gaza, but did not provide details.
Hamas said hundreds of trucks carrying humanitarian aid and fuel are to be allowed to enter Gaza every day as part of the deal. Supplies would also reach northern Gaza, the focus of Israel's ground offensive, for the first time, Hamas said.
Israel's government statement did not refer to increased aid and fuel deliveries. Israeli Channel 12 TV reported that as part of the deal, Israel will allow a "significant" amount of fuel and humanitarian supplies into Gaza, but did not specify how much. Israel has severely limited the amount of aid, especially fuel, allowed into Gaza during the war, prompting dire shortages of water, food and fuel to run generators.
The fighting is expected to come to a temporary halt: Israeli jets and troops will hold their fire, while militants are expected to refrain from firing rockets at Israel. Hamas said Israel's warplanes will stop flying over southern Gaza during the four-day truce and for six hours daily over northern Gaza. Israel made no mention of halting flights, and it wasn't clear if this would include Israel's sophisticated intelligence drones, which have been a constant presence over Gaza.
WHAT'S BEEN LEFT OUT?
While several families will be thrilled to have their loved ones back, a significant number of hostages remain in Hamas captivity, including men, women, older people and foreign nationals. The families who are not included in the current deal are likely to keep up the pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to try to secure their own loved ones' release with a future deal.
According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, under the deal, the International Committee of the Red Cross will visit remaining hostages and provide them with medicines they may need. Netanyahu confirmed that detail.
While the cease-fire will grant Palestinians in Gaza a brief calm, the hundreds of thousands who have fled the combat zone and headed south are not expected to be able to head back. Israeli troops are expected to remain in their positions in northern Gaza and are not withdrawing.
WHAT ARE THE DEAL'S POSSIBLE IMPLICATIONS?
The deal offers only a short break in the fighting. Israel, which has made destroying Hamas and saving the captives its war goals, is expected to continue where it left off once the four days wrap up.
Netanyahu said Tuesday that the cease-fire will allow the army to prepare for the continued fighting and will not harm its war effort. Once the cease-fire ends, airstrikes will likely resume and troops will continue their push throughout northern Gaza before their expected foray into the south at an unknown time. Gaza residents will have to brace for a resumption of hostilities.
The deal also appears to bolster Hamas. A break in fighting would grant it time to strategize, shift around militant positions and perhaps regroup after Israel claimed it had killed large numbers of Hamas fighters and destroyed many of the group's military assets.
The staggered nature of the deal also opens the door for Hamas to up its demands on the fly, on the assumption that Israel will make even more concessions to release more hostages.
Yehya Sinwar, the Hamas leader in Gaza and presumed mastermind of the Oct. 7 attack, could also try to turn a four-day pause in fighting into a longer cease-fire by offering to release more hostages. A longer cease-fire would make it harder for Israel to restart the war, both operationally and in the eyes of global public opinion.
The Israeli government would face growing domestic pressure to secure the release of more hostages. Families left out of the current deal will only become more determined to see their loved ones freed once they've seen the first groups leave captivity.
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