Qatar confirms Israel, Hamas reach deal on four-day truce, hostage release
AFP || Shining BD
Qatar confirmed on Wednesday that Israel and Hamas had reached an agreement on a four-day humanitarian pause in exchange for the release of 50 hostages in Gaza.
"The starting time of the pause will be announced within the next 24 hours and last for four days, subject to extension," Qatar's foreign ministry said in a statement.
"The agreement includes the release of 50 civilian women and children hostages currently held in the Gaza Strip in exchange for the release of a number of Palestinian women and children detained in Israeli prisons, the number of those released will be increased in later stages of implementing the agreement," it added.
Qatar has been engaged in weeks of intense, behind-the-scenes negotiations aimed at freeing some of the 240 hostages held in Gaza in return for temporary ceasefire and access for humanitarian aid.
Hamas gunmen stormed across Gaza's militarised border on October 7 and staged the worst attack in Israel's history.
Israel says the attack killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and that around 240 people were taken hostage, among them elderly people and children.
In response, Israel launched a relentless bombing campaign and ground offensive in Hamas-ruled Gaza, which the Hamas government says has killed more than 14,100 people, thousands of them children.
Qatar said the deal had been undertaken with Egypt and the United States as well as Hamas and Israel and would include "the entry of a larger number of humanitarian convoys and relief aid, including fuel designated for humanitarian needs".
Qatar's foreign ministry spokesman Majed Al-Ansari told AFP the release of the 50 hostages held by Hamas would be staggered over the four-day truce.
"The truce begins and then every day within the four days we will have a number of hostages coming out... and that number should reach 50 by day four," he said.
The expectation was that the initial 50 women and children hostages released by Hamas would be followed by further releases to extend the initial four-day truce.
"If by then the Palestinians can commit to an additional number then the truce can be extended," Ansari said.
"It will take some time to get all the civilians out within these parameters, it will take some time also to... ascertain how many we have left," he said. The temporary cessation of hostilities would not come into effect immediately and would "need some time to be prepared on the ground", he said.
The exchange will be facilitated by Red Crescent workers on the ground, as well as officials from Israel, Hamas and Qatar, Ansari added.
During the period hostages are moved, Israeli reconnaissance of Gaza will be put on temporary hold, said the spokesman, who is also a key advisor to Qatar's prime minister.
Under the deal "there are no military prisoners among those to be released", he said, indicating that was an area where trust would have to be built if talks were to move forward.