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Israel and Hamas Agree to First Phase of Hostage Deal

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The Israeli cabinet accepted a deal for a temporary cease-fire with Hamas that would involve the release of 50 hostages being held by the terrorist organization inside Gaza. The hostages would be exchanged for Palestinians who are being held inside Israeli jails. 

The deal is considered the first of several phases. Among the 50 hostages being released, three are Americans, including two women and one child who will turn 4 years old on Friday.

The four-day ceasefire is the culmination of days of negotiations between Israel, Hamas, the U.S., and Qatar amid a brutal war that has waged for six weeks.

A statement by the Prime Minister of Israel said the first group of 50 women and children will be released over four days, during which there will be a pause in fighting. For every additional 10 hostages released, the pause would be extended by another day, it said.

The agreement was announced early Wednesday, after an Israeli government source told reporters Tuesday evening that a deal was imminent. Israel’s security agencies — the IDF, Shin Bet, and Mossad — approve of the emerging deal, the source said. The proposed plan will include releasing 50 living Israeli citizens, mostly women and children, in groups of 12-13 per day. In exchange, Israel will release Palestinian women and minors from prison and return them to where they used to live, mostly the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Many other details are being worked out, according to the source.

“The Israeli government is committed to the return of all abductees home,” the government statement said in a WhatsApp message. “Tonight, the government approved the outline for the first stage of achieving this goal, according to which at least 50 abductees — women and children — will be released for four days, during which there will be a lull in the fighting. The release of every 10 additional abductees will result in an additional day of respite.”

The deal has been structured to incentivize releases beyond 50, a senior U.S. official said.

“The clear aim is to bring all hostages home to their families,” the official said.

As part of the deal, Israel would allow 300 aid trucks per day to enter Gaza via the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

About Susan Katz Keating

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