Israel and Hamas have reached a deal on a cease-fire and hostages. What does it look like?

A woman looks at photographs of hostages, mostly Israeli civilians who were abducted during the Oct. 7, unprecedented Hamas attack on Israel, in Ramat Gan, Israel, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023. 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 Palestinian prisoners jailed by Israel, mediators said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

By TIA GOLDENBERG Associated Press

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — A temporary cease-fire agreement to facilitate the release of dozens of people taken hostage during Hamas’ raid on Israel is expected bring the first respite to war-weary Palestinians in Gaza and a glimmer of hope to the families of the captives.

Israel and Hamas agreed to the four-day halt, which was announced Wednesday and will also see the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

The deal, brokered by Qatar, the U.S. and Egypt, was made public as fighting intensified in central neighborhoods of Gaza City. Egypt’s state-run Qahera TV channel said the truce would take effect Thursday morning local time.

It caps weeks of fitful indirect negotiations and sets the stage for a tense period that could determine the course of the war, which was set off by Hamas’ Oct. 7 raid and has killed more than 11,000 Palestinians, according to health authorities. Hamas and other militant groups abducted some 240 and killed at least 1,200 people.

Israel, Hamas and Qatar have released different details of the agreement, but those details do not appear to contradict each other.


Qatar announced Wednesday that Hamas will release 50 hostages in exchange for what Hamas said would be 150 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. Those released by both sides will be women and minors.

The hostages would be released in bursts throughout the cease-fire. Once the first batch is released, Israel is expected to free the first group of Palestinian prisoners.

Those up for release include many teenage boys detained during a wave of violence in the West Bank in 2022 or 2023 and charged with offenses such as stone-throwing or disturbing public order, according to a list of eligible prisoners published by Israel’s Justice Ministry. Israel currently holds nearly 7,000 Palestinians accused or convicted of security offenses.

Israel said the truce would be extended by a day for every 10 additional hostages released.

Qatar said Israel would also allow more fuel and humanitarian aid into Gaza, but did not provide details.

Hamas said hundreds of trucks carrying humanitarian aid and fuel are to be allowed to enter Gaza every day as part of the deal. Supplies would also reach northern Gaza, the focus of Israel’s ground offensive, for the first time, Hamas said.

Israel’s government statement did not refer to increased aid and fuel deliveries. Israeli Channel 12 TV reported that as part of the deal, Israel will allow a “significant” amount of fuel and humanitarian supplies into Gaza, but did not specify how much. Israel has severely limited the amount of aid, especially fuel, allowed into Gaza during the war, prompting dire shortages of water, food and fuel to run generators.

The fighting is expected to come to a temporary halt: Israeli jets and troops will hold their fire, while militants are expected to refrain from firing rockets at Israel.

Hamas said Israel’s warplanes would stop flying over southern Gaza during the four-day truce and for six hours daily over the north. Israel made no mention of halting flights, and it wasn’t clear if this would include its sophisticated intelligence drones, which have been a constant presence over Gaza.


While several families will be thrilled to have their loved ones back, a significant number of hostages will likely remain in Hamas captivity, including men, women, older people and foreign nationals. The families who are not included in the current deal are likely to keep up the pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to try to secure their own loved ones’ release with a future deal. The plight of the families has gripped Israelis and they have widespread support.

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, under the deal, the International Committee of the Red Cross will visit remaining hostages and provide them with any medicine they need. Neither Hamas nor Israel confirmed that detail.

While the cease-fire will grant Palestinians in Gaza a brief calm, the hundreds of thousands who have fled the combat zone and headed south are not expected to be able to return home. Israeli troops are expected to remain in their positions in northern Gaza.


The deal offers only a short break in the fighting. Israel, which has made destroying Hamas and saving the captives its goals, is expected to continue where it left off once the four days wrap up.

Netanyahu said Tuesday that the cease-fire will allow the army to prepare for the continued fighting and will not harm its war effort. Once the truce ends, airstrikes will likely resume and troops will continue their push throughout northern Gaza before their expected foray into the south at an unknown time. Gaza residents will have to brace for a resumption of hostilities.

A break in fighting would also grant Hamas time to strategize, shift around militant positions and perhaps regroup after Israel claimed it had killed large numbers of fighters and destroyed many of the group’s military assets.

The staggered nature of the deal also opens the door for Hamas to up its demands on the fly, in the hopes that Israel would make more concessions to release more hostages.

Yehya Sinwar, the Hamas leader in Gaza and presumed mastermind of the Oct. 7 attack, could also try to turn a four-day pause in fighting into a longer cease-fire by offering to release more hostages. A longer cease-fire would make it harder for Israel to restart the war, both operationally and in the eyes of global public opinion.

The Israeli government would face growing domestic pressure to secure the release of more hostages. Families left out of the current deal will only become more determined to see their loved ones freed once they’ve seen the first groups leave captivity.


Full AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.