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Israel, Hamas and the United States are reportedly close to announcing an agreement to pause ongoing hostilities in order to free dozens of women and children being held hostage in Gaza.

A plume of smoke rises above northern Gaza after an Israeli strike. (Photo: AFP/Menahem Kahana)

According to the Washington Post, the release could begin within the next several days – and would mark the first sustained pause in the conflict.

Under the terms of a six-page agreement;

  • All parties would freeze combat operations for at least five days.
  • During this period, an initial 50 or more hostages would be released in batches every 24 hours. 
  • It is unknown how many of what is believed to be 239 hostages will be released.
  • The halt is also intended to allow humanitarian assistance to flood in, including fuel, which would arrive from Egypt.

According to the report, an outline of the deal was created during several weeks of talks in Doha, Quatar – where Israel, the USA and Hamas – indirectly represented by Qatari mediators, hashed out the logistics. Until now, it was unclear if Israel would agree to it.

“We are not going to comment,” said a spokesperson for the Israeli embassy in Washington late Saturday.

Concern about the captives — two of whom Israel said were found dead — along with the rising number of Palestinian civilian casualties have steadily increased pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. More than 100 countries — but, notably, not the United States — have called for a full and immediate cease-fire.

The decision to accept the deal is difficult for Israel, said one person familiar with the situation who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive negotiations. While there is strong domestic pressure on Netanyahu to bring the hostages home, there are also loud voices in Israel demanding that the government not barter for their release. -WaPo

On Friday, Israeli National Security Council head Tzachi Haegbi told the press that a decision had been made by the war cabinet to agree to a limited ceasefire only after “a massive release of our hostages … and it will be limited and short, because after that we will continue to work towards achieving our war goals.”

REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Netanyahu, meanwhile, insisted on Saturday that the offensive would continue despite a decision last week to allow the first consistent flow of fuel back into Gaza since the start of the war. Israel has notably cut off all but a minimal amount of food, water, fuel and medicine.



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