The agreement paves the way for the release of 50 hostages; Israel will release 150 to 300 female and teenage Palestinian terrorists.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Galant and Minister-without-Portfolio Benny Gantz hold a joint press conference at the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv, Nov. 11, 2023. (Credit: Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)
The Israeli Cabinet approved a deal in the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday, November 22, according to reports in multiple media outlets. The deal reportedly calls for Hamas terrorists to release 50 of the estimated 240 hostages it holds in the Gaza Strip in exchange for a multi-day ceasefire.
The first group of hostages was expected to be released as early as Thursday, November 23, with Hamas reportedly having agreed to release 12 to 13 hostages each day of the four-day truce.
“After the hostage deal is implemented, we will continue dismantling Hamas while respecting humanitarian law on the ground,” wrote Jonathan Conricus, Israel Defense Forces spokesman, a little after 3 a.m. in Israel. “We will remain vigilant during the pause and use the time to prepare for future operations.”
Israel’s Channel 12 News reported that the deal will see the release of 30 children, eight mothers and 12 women held by Hamas. The terror group claimed that it could not immediately locate 10 additional children taken from southern Israel on Oct. 7.
As part of the agreement, Hamas will allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit all remaining hostages in Gaza and provide medical assistance to those who need it, said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In return, Israel will release 150 to 300 female and teenage Palestinian prisoners “with no blood on their hands.” They will reportedly be allowed to return to their homes in eastern Jerusalem, Yehuda and Shomron.
CNN had reported earlier on Tuesday that Israel had agreed to refrain from using surveillance drones in Gaza for six hours a day during the ceasefire.
Jerusalem will also reportedly allow fuel to enter Gaza during the ceasefire and dramatically increase the amount of goods permitted into the Strip.
The official announcement followed consecutive meetings on Tuesday evening of the War Cabinet, the broader Political-Security Cabinet and the entire Cabinet.
In remarks ahead of the Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu made it clear that the Jewish state “is at war and will continue to be at war until we achieve all of our goals.”
He vowed “to eliminate Hamas, to return all of our hostages and to ensure that there will be no factors left in Gaza that threaten Israel.”
Some 240 hostages captured during Hamas’s Oct. 7 cross-border massacre of 1,200 Israelis are currently being held in Gaza.
The captives include 25 Thai nationals, 21 Argentinians, 18 Germans, 10 Americans, seven French, seven Russians, four Hungarians, three Poles, three Portuguese, two Brits, two Filipinos and two Romanians.
The terror group is also holding hostage nationals of Austria, Brazil, China, South Africa, Denmark, Ireland, Lithuania, Mexico, Nepal, the Netherlands, Serbia, Tanzania, Ukraine and Uruguay.
Hamas previously released four hostages for what it called “humanitarian reasons.” Judith Raanan, 59, and her 17-year-old daughter, Natalie, were freed on Oct. 20. Nurit Cooper, 79, and Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, were let go three days later.
Moreover, IDF special forces late last month rescued Pvt. Ori Megidish from Gaza.
Last week, Israel Defense Forces soldiers operating in the vicinity of Shifa Hospital in Gaza City recovered the bodies of Cpl. Noa Marciano, 19, and Yehudit Weiss, 65. Both women were murdered during their captivity, according to the military.
Two more hostages from Nepal and Thailand were hidden at Shifa Hospital in the immediate aftermath of the Oct. 7 massacre, IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari revealed on Sunday, November 19, presenting video footage of the captives.
“We have not yet located these hostages and have not rescued them,” Hagari noted, adding: “The world must remember: Hamas is holding hostage the elderly, men, women, children and babies.”
As the Cabinet convened in Tel Aviv on Tuesday night, Palestinian Islamic Jihad announced that one of the Israeli hostages had died in captivity. Hannah Katzir, 77, from Kibbutz Nir Oz, previously appeared in a hostage video released by the Iranian-backed terror group.