Israel and Hamas agree to ceasefire, 50 hostages released | Guardian Nigeria News


After weeks of all-out war, Israel and Hamas on Wednesday announced an agreement that would allow the release of at least 50 hostages and dozens of Palestinian prisoners while offering a four-day truce to besieged Gaza residents.

In the first major diplomatic breakthrough in the war, Palestinian militants plan to release 50 women and children they kidnapped during the October 7 attack during a four-day ceasefire.

After weeks of negotiations brokered by Qatar, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet approved the cease-fire agreement on Wednesday after a near-all-night meeting, with Netanyahu telling ministers that it was a “difficult decision to make, but… It’s the right decision.”

The cabinet’s approval was one of the final stumbling blocks in what one U.S. official described as an “extremely excruciating” five weeks of talks.

Hamas issued a statement welcoming the “humanitarian ceasefire” and said 150 Palestinians would also be released from Israeli prisons.

“As long as the occupying forces respect the ceasefire, the resistance will abide by the ceasefire,” a Hamas official told AFP.

The Hamas militant group carried out the deadliest cross-border attack in Israel’s history on October 7, killing about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, according to the Israeli government.

Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups also took an estimated 240 Israelis and foreigners hostage, including the elderly and young children.

Israel has declared war on Hamas, vowing to bring the hostages home and destroy the extremist group.

It launched a massive bombing and ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, killing 14,100 people, thousands of them children, according to the Hamas government in the region.

Israel announced a four-day “pause” in its six-week air, land and sea offensive against Gaza to facilitate the release of hostages, but stressed the deal does not mean an end to the war. did.

The Israeli government said each additional 10 hostages released would result in an additional day of “suspension.”

– “Brave Souls” –
Officials from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another militant group that took part in the October 7 attack, earlier told AFP that the ceasefire would include a ceasefire on the ground and a temporary halt to Israeli air operations over southern Gaza. It said it included suspension.

The negotiations included the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Israel’s foreign spy agency Mossad, Egyptian intelligence, and leaders from Doha, Cairo, Washington, Gaza, and Israel.

A senior U.S. official said three Americans, including 3-year-old Abigail Mo Idan, are among the 50 people scheduled to be released in stages starting Thursday.

U.S. President Joe Biden said he was “very pleased that once this agreement is fully implemented, some of these brave souls… will be reunited with their families.”

Qatar’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the agreement, saying that in exchange for the hostages, “a number of Palestinian women and children held in Israeli prisons” would be released.

“The start time of the suspension will be announced in the next 24 hours and, if extended, will last for four days,” the ministry said.

The agreement was welcomed by countries including the UK, China, Egypt, France and Germany, with Foreign Minister Annalena Barbok hailing the “groundbreaking progress” and adding: “We will use the humanitarian moratorium to provide critical relief to the people of Gaza.” We must provide adequate aid.”

– anxiety –
Ahead of Israel’s cabinet vote, Prime Minister Netanyahu faced criticism from within the right-wing coalition, some of whom said the deal gave too many benefits to Palestinian militants.

Hardline National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir has signaled he will vote against the deal, saying it should also include the release of Israeli soldiers held by Hamas.

But in the end, the government put all concerns aside, as there are dozens of families in Israel who want their loved ones returned home, and the Israeli public is so caught up in the fate of the hostages.

Israel’s hawkish Defense Minister Job Gallant said before the midday meeting that he had received assurances that the deal did not mean an end to the war.

He said security operations would “continue in full” “immediately after completing this phase”.

The government said in a statement that Israel “will continue the war to bring home all hostages, complete the elimination of Hamas, and ensure that Gaza poses no new threat to the State of Israel.”

– “Unbearable situation” –
Earlier, Gazan resident Hamza Abdel Razek said he hoped any ceasefire agreement would bring some respite and welcomed any ceasefire agreement.

“People are really suffering,” he told AFP. “We believe this will pave the way for a longer-term cease-fire or even a complete cease-fire.”

U.S. officials said there was also hope that the deal would result in a “complete cessation” of fighting with Hezbollah, which like Hamas is backed by Iran, along the Israel-Lebanon border.

Since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, gunfights have raged along the border, leaving scores dead on both sides.

Mahmoud Abu Nazim, another Gazan resident, said: “People are enduring unbearable conditions, so we… pray to God for the success of Gaza.”

Much of Gaza has been flattened by thousands of airstrikes and the territory is under siege, with minimal food, water and fuel allowed in.

Israel has stepped up its offensive in northern Gaza in recent days.

The Israeli military said airstrikes had hit “approximately 250” Hamas targets in the past day, destroying three underground mines in the Jabaria area and completely encircling it.

Dozens of people died in the strike at the Hamas-run Indonesian hospital in Jabalia, the Health Ministry said, but there was no independent confirmation of the death toll.

The Israeli military later announced that Israeli forces had “directly targeted” the source of the fire from inside an Indonesian hospital.

The aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières has announced that three doctors, including two employed by the group, were killed in an Israeli attack on al-Awda hospital in Jabalia refugee camp.

Israel maintains that Hamas uses medical facilities as cover for its fighters and as bases of operations, a legitimate military objective, but that it is doing everything possible to limit harm to civilians. ing.

Source: guardian.ng

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