After weeks of negotiations, officials from Israel and Hamas said early Wednesday that they had reached an agreement for a brief cease-fire in Gaza and the release of 50 of the about 240 hostages taken by the armed group on Oct. 7.
The Israeli decision, announced by the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said that his government had approved the “framework” for a hostage release over four days, during which there would be a pause in the fighting. Less than an hour later, Hamas said in a statement that it had agreed to a cease-fire and to free hostages in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
Qatar, the lead mediator of the talks, confirmed the agreement and said the starting time of the cease-fire would be announced within 24 hours.
Here’s what we know about the agreement:
A four-day cease-fire would be the longest halt in fighting since Oct. 7. During the pause, women and children, will be released over four days. Israel said that it would extend the cease-fire by a day for every 10 additional hostages released by Hamas. A pause would bring some measure of relief to Gaza’s 2.2 million civilians, more than two-thirds of whom have been displaced and pushed to the limits of survival with diminishing supplies of food and water.
Israel said 50 women and children would be freed in the “first stage” of the hostage release. The Israeli government had publicly taken a hard line on hostages, saying repeatedly that there would be no cease-fire until captives are released. One Israeli official said that some in the government had wanted all the hostages to be released at once. In closed-door talks, though, there appears to have been wiggle room in Isreal’s stance. Israel said that the agreement announced early Wednesday was the “first stage” toward its goal of bringing all the hostages home.
Hamas said 150 Palestinian prisoners would be released and that more aid would be allowed into Gaza. Hamas had previously said it was seeking a full cease-fire and the release of all Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, and added as a new condition the delivery of fuel to Gaza’s collapsing hospitals. On Wednesday, the group said in its statement that “a humanitarian truce” had been reached, pursuant to which hundreds of trucks with aid and fuel for humanitarian needs would be let into the territory during the cease-fire. It added that despite the truce, “Our hands will remain on the trigger.”
Hostages won’t be released until Thursday at the earliest. Israeli judges will have to review any legal challenges, according to Israeli officials, and the situation is likely to remain fluid until the cease-fire takes effect. Qatar said the four-day pause was “subject to extension.”
Victoria Kim contributed reporting.