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Israel, Hamas agree to temporary truce, release of hostages

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Israel, Hamas agree to temporary truce, release of hostages
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Israel and Hamas have reached an agreement for a four-day halt to the devastating war in Gaza, accompanied by the release of dozens of hostages held by the militant group in return for Palestinians detained by Israel, mediators said Wednesday.

The truce marks the biggest diplomatic breakthrough since Hamas’ Oct. 7 rampage into southern Israel ignited a war that has devastated vast swaths of Gaza and raised fears of a wider conflict across the Middle East.

The Persian Gulf nation of Qatar, which has played a key role in mediating with Hamas, announced the deal without saying when it would go into effect. Fifty hostages will be released in stages, in exchange for what Hamas said would be 150 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Both sides will release women and children first, and the supply of humanitarian aid flowing into the besieged territory will be ramped up, officials said.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would resume the war after the truce and keep fighting “until we achieve all our goals,” including the defeat of Hamas.

Residents in Gaza City said the fighting there had intensified overnight into Wednesday, with gunfire, heavy artillery and airstrikes in central neighborhoods.

“They are mad. Apparently they want to advance before the truce,” said Nasser al-Sheikh, who is sheltering with relatives in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood.

The announcement capped weeks of indirect Qatari-led negotiations between Israel and Hamas, an Islamic militant group that seized Gaza from the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority in 2007.

READ ALSO: Israeli forces capture Hamas stronghold in Gaza, attack more targets

The United States and Egypt were also involved in stop-and-go talks to free some of the roughly 240 hostages captured by Hamas and other militants during the Oct. 7 raid.

President Joe Biden welcomed the deal, saying Netanyahu has committed to supporting an “extended pause” to make sure that the hostages are released and humanitarian aid can be sent to Gaza.

Israel said that the truce would be extended an extra day for every additional 10 hostages released by Hamas. The International Committee of the Red Cross said it is standing by to assist any swap.

The war erupted in early October, when several thousand Hamas militants broke through Israel’s formidable defenses and poured into the south, killing at least 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and capturing scores more. Israel responded with weeks of devastating airstrikes on Gaza, followed by a ground invasion.

More than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed during the Israeli offensive, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-run territory, which says it is no longer able to keep count because of the collapse of the health sector in the north. It does not differentiate between civilians and militants, though some two-thirds of the dead have been identified as women and minors.

 

 

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