Israel, Hamas agree truce, 50 hostages to be released

Israel and Hamas agreed yesterday to a ceasefire in Gaza for at least four days.

Israel and Hamas agreed yesterday to a ceasefire in Gaza for at least four days, to let in aid and release at least 50 hostages captured by militants in exchange for at least 150 Palestinians jailed in Israel.

Moussa Abu Marzouk, a Hamas senior official told Al Jazeera yesterday that the ceasefire in Gaza will begin today at 10am local time.

The first truce in a brutal near seven-week-old war, reached after mediation by Qatar, was hailed around the world as a sign of progress that could ease the suffering of Gaza's civilians and bring more Israeli hostages home. Israel said the truce could be extended further, as long as more hostages were freed.

Hamas and allied groups captured around 240 hostages when gunmen rampaged through southern Israeli towns on October 7. Previously, Hamas had released just four.

A statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said 50 women and children would be released over four days at a rate of at least 10 per day. Beyond that, the truce could be extended as long as an additional ten hostages were freed per day.

It made no mention of the release of Palestinian detainees, but Israel's justice ministry published a list of 300 names of Palestinian prisoners who could be freed.

"Israel's government is committed to return all the hostages home. Tonight, it approved the proposed deal as a first stage to achieving this goal," it said in a statement.

Hamas said the initial 50 hostages would be released in exchange for 150 Palestinian women and children held in Israeli jails. Hundreds of trucks of humanitarian, medical and fuel supplies would enter Gaza, while Israel would halt all air sorties over southern Gaza and maintain a daily six-hour daytime no-fly window in the north, it said.

Israel has placed Gaza under siege and relentless bombardment since the Hamas attack, which killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli tallies. Since then, more than 14,000 Gazans have been killed, around 40 percent of them children, as per officials in the Hamas-ruled territory, figures deemed reliable by the United Nations.

Qatar's chief negotiator in ceasefire talks, Minister of State at the Foreign Ministry Mohammed Al-Khulaifi, said the truce meant there would be "no attack whatsoever. No military movements, no expansion, nothing."

Qatar hopes the deal "will be a seed to a bigger agreement and a permanent cease of fire. And that's our intention," he added.

Pending the start of the truce there was no let-up in fighting. As morning broke, smoke from explosions could be seen rising above northern Gaza.

The truce deal is a first small step toward peace in the most violent ruction of the 75-year-old Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The past seven weeks have shocked the world because of the suffering of civilians on both sides, beginning with the killing of Israeli families in their homes and continuing with destruction rained down on Gaza, home to 2.3 million people.

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