Israel and Hamas have agreed to a four-day ceasefire deal that will enable the release of about 50 women and children held captive in Gaza since the Hamas armed group stormed southern Israel on October 7, in exchange for Palestinians held in Israeli jails.
The Israeli cabinet voted in favour of the agreement after talks on a Qatar-backed deal that continued into the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Only three of the 38 members of the cabinet voted against the truce – National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and two other members of his far-right political party.
Israeli media has reported heated exchanges between ministers of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
The prime minister’s office said for every additional 10 hostages released, the pause would be extended by a day but it did not mention the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange.
“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 its brief statement.
Hamas, which controls Gaza, also released a statement, confirming that 50 women and children held in the territory would be freed in exchange for Israel releasing 150 Palestinian women and children from Israeli jails.
It said that Israel would also stop all military actions in Gaza and that hundreds of trucks carrying humanitarian, medical and fuel aid would be allowed into the territory.
This is the first truce since the war broke out Oct 7 when Hamas attacked Israeli territory, killing a thousand people and abducting many.
Officials from Qatar, the United States, Israel and Hamas have for days been suggesting a deal was imminent.
In a statement issued later, Qatar confirmed the “success” of mediation efforts, which also involved Egypt and the United States, and confirmed the broad parameters of the agreement.
“The starting time of the pause will be announced within the next 24 hours and last for four days, subject to extension,” the statement said.
It confirmed that humanitarian aid would be sent to Gaza and that 50 women and children held captive there would be released in exchange for “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 without going into detail.
Thanking the Qatar Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, for their “critical leadership and partnership”, US President Joe Biden welcomed the deal.
“I look forward to speaking with each of these leaders and staying in close contact as we work to ensure this deal is carried through in its entirety,” the White House said in a statement. “It is important that all aspects of this deal be fully implemented.”