Israel and Hamas reach temporary ceasefire agreement
After weeks of negotiations, Israel and Hamas have reached an agreement on a temporary ceasefire in Gaza, starting on Thursday. What will follow is the release of dozens of people taken hostage by Hamas on Oct. 7. Israel will also set free a large number of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. The World's Matthew Bell tells us more.
Israeli soldiers carry a stretcher toward a helicopter near the border with Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023. Israel has been conducting a ground operation inside Gaza for over three weeks as part of its war against the Hamas militant group.
After weeks of negotiations, Israel and Hamas have reached an agreement on a temporary ceasefire in Gaza, starting on Thursday.
What will follow is the release of dozens of people taken hostage by Hamas on Oct. 7. Israel will also set free a large number of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
Diplomats from Qatar acted as the intermediaries between Hamas and Israel, while the US and Egypt were also involved in the talks. The World’s Matthew Bell tells host Marco Werman more about the ceasefire deal.
Marco Werman: I know the logistics here were a real sticking point in these negotiations. What do we know about how this is all going to work?
Matthew Bell: The earliest that hostages in Gaza are expected to be freed would be first thing Thursday morning. This group is 50 people, all of them women and children. And they would probably be let go not all at once, but in smaller numbers. Israel would then start releasing Palestinians from Israeli jails, and they are also women and teenagers. The ceasefire is set to go for four days and begin mid-morning on Thursday. And interestingly, Marco, Israel also said that for every 10 additional hostages released — remember there are thought to be more than 230 people being held in Gaza — for every 10 more set free, the Israeli military would extend the ceasefire by one day.
For the families and friends of those Israeli hostages, this has got to be a relief. What are they saying today?
A spokesperson for the hostages’ families issued a statement today. It says, “We welcome every hostage who returns home.” But it goes on to say that all of the hostages need to be released, that this ceasefire needs to be used to ensure the safety of the remaining hostages, and the Red Cross needs to be allowed to visit them in Gaza. Last week, I spoke with Ya’el Engel Lichi. Her 17-year-old nephew Ofir was taken by Hamas on Oct. 7. Here’s some of what she told me: “We just want them home. We want them back home. Because you see me now like that and I’m ok, and his sisters are, but we’re going crazy. All the families.”
Going crazy now, for nearly seven weeks. Matthew, what do we know about the Palestinian prisoners who will be released as part of this agreement?
That’s a group of 150 people, [but Israel has also released a list with the names of 300 prisoners who could be released, if Hamas agrees to set free more hostages.] According to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, the majority of them are under the age of 18, along with a number of women. Israel now has around 7,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, charged or convicted of security related offenses. Israel has refused to release any Palestinians convicted of murder. The people Israel says it will free are in prison for things like rock throwing, attacking police officers or weapons possession.
In addition to the Israeli and international hostages being held in Gaza, there’s been huge concern about the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. What would this deal mean for getting aid into the Palestinian territory?
According to a statement from Hamas, 300 aid trucks will be allowed into Gaza, daily, when the ceasefire takes hold. That likely means badly needed fuel, food and medical supplies. [Hamas has indicated that humanitarian supplies, for the first time in weeks, would be able to get into northern Gaza, where Israeli ground troops have effectively encircled Gaza City.] The Israeli government did not say anything about humanitarian aid deliveries in its initial statement on this deal. But an Israeli television channel reported that a significant amount of fuel and aid would be allowed in.
This war was sparked, of course, by the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas that killed around 1,200 Israelis. Since then, we’ve seen weeks of Israeli air strikes in Gaza and now a major ground offensive. Could this temporary ceasefire actually bring an end to this war?
That’s a huge unanswered question, Marco. Even as calls around the world for a ceasefire have grown louder, Israel’s leaders have been reluctant to agree to one. But, speaking in a conference call earlier today, a former national security advisor in Israel, Yaakov Amidror, said this deal makes sense: “I think that here we have a chance to save the life of 50 people - children, babies, women, elderly. We should take it. It’s a blackmail, I know. It means that we are giving them more time to be better prepared for the next stage of the war." But Amidror went on to say that what will happen next, after the ceasefire ends and the hostage exchange happens, is that the Israeli military will continue going after Hamas in Gaza: “It is very clear to the decision makers that they cannot stop. The Israeli sentiment will not let them stop. If they stop the war after the four, five, six days of the ceasefire, that will be the end of this government." This is what Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been saying, too. But in the meantime there are a lot of moving parts for this temporary ceasefire to take hold and for this hostage-prisoner exchange to play out. That’s likely to take several days at the very least.
This interview was lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
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