Israel and Hamas agree to truce, mutual hostage exchange

Israel and Hamas agree to truce, mutual hostage exchange
After weeks of negotiations mediated by Qatar, Hamas and Israel have agreed to a temporary truce based on a mutual hostage exchange.
3 min read
22 November, 2023
Gazans will be tentatively relieved to hear news of the truce as they have faced relentless bombardment and a humanitarian catastrophe since October 7 [Getty]

Israel and Hamas agreed to a four-day truce that would see a mutual exchange of hostages/prisoners, both sides announced Wednesday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet approved the accord after a near-all-night meeting, in which he told reticent ministers this was a "difficult decision but it's a right decision."

A government spokesman told AFP that under the agreement at least 50 Israeli and foreign hostages would be released -- women and children -- in return for a four-day "lull" in military operations.

For every 10 additional hostages released, there would be an extra day of truce.

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Hamas released a statement welcoming the "humanitarian truce", which it said would also see 150 Palestinians released from Israeli jails.

The truce offers Gaza residents the prospect of a desperately desired, if brief, pause after nearly seven weeks of total war.

Sources from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another militant group, had earlier told AFP the truce would include a complete ceasefire on the ground and a pause in Israeli air operations over southern Gaza.

The Israeli cabinet's approval was one of the last stumbling blocks to the agreement coming into effect.

Qatar had helped to broker the talks.


Ahead of the vote, Netanyahu had faced a revolt from within his extreme right coalition, some of whom believe the agreement would give too much to Hamas. 

Far-right Minister for National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir indicated he would vote against the agreement, saying it should include the release of Israeli soldiers.

But with dozens of families in Israel and beyond desperate to have their loved ones returned home, and the Israeli public gripped by the hostages' fate, the government set aside any misgivings.

Israel's powerful Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said before the crunch meeting that he had won assurances that the deal would not spell the end of the war to destroy Hamas.

"Immediately after we have exhausted this phase" he said, security operations would "continue in full force."

In a statement, Netanyahu's office underscored that the truce did not spell the end of the war.

"The Israeli government, the Israeli army and the security forces will continue the war to bring back all those kidnapped, eliminate Hamas and ensure that there is no longer any threat to the State of Israel from Gaza," the statement said.

 'Unbearable situation' 

Earlier, Rafah resident Hamza Abdel Razeq welcomed any ceasefire would bring some respite for Gazans who have endured Israel's bombing and expanding ground offensive.

"The people are really suffering," he told AFP. "If they reach a five-day truce deal now, I believe it will pave the way for longer truces or even a total ceasefire."

Another resident, Mahmud Abu Najm, added: "We... pray to God for its success because the people are enduring an unbearable situation."

Large parts of Gaza have been flattened by thousands of air strikes, and the territory is under siege, with minimal food, water and fuel allowed in. At least 14,100 people have been killed, including almost 6000 children.

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According to the Hamas and Islamic Jihad sources, the proposed deal would also allow for up to 300 trucks of food and medical aid to enter Gaza.

Israel has come under intense international pressure to implement a humanitarian ceasefire.

But in recent days it has pressed its offensive into northern Gaza, with civilians paying the price.

At Jabalia's Indonesian Hospital, Gaza's health ministry said strikes had killed dozens.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said three doctors, including two it employed, were killed in an Israeli strike on the Al-Awda hospital in Jabalia refugee camp.