Israel-Hamas War: In a surprise announcement, Israel’s National Security Council chairman Tzachi Hanegbi said that the highly-awaited release of the first group of 50 hostages will not take place before Friday (November 24) as negotiations for the Hamas captives are “continuously progressing”.
It was previously announced that the first batch of hostages would be released on Thursday as the four-day truce between Israel and Hamas begins today. Hanegbi, a top aide of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said that “the release will begin according to the original agreement between the parties, and not before Friday”, according to a report by The Times of Israel.
The delay in the release of hostages is likely to cause a major blow to their families as they grow increasingly desperate to see their loved ones return from the Gaza Strip after almost 50 days since the war began. Meanwhile, pressure continues to grow on Netanyahu to take strong action for the release of the hostages.
According to an Israeli official on late Wednesday, both Israel and Hamas need to sign a document ratifying the agreement of a temporary ceasefire for it to take effect, contrary to what was previously discussed. The document is expected to be signed within 24 hours.
What is in the deal?
A temporary truce between Israel and Hamas was brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States and announced on Wednesday, marking a significant diplomatic breakthrough in the war that has killed tens and thousands of people.
Qatar announced that Hamas would release 50 out of the nearly 240 hostages captured during the group’s brutal attack on Israel on October 7 that killed over 1,200 people. In return, Hamas asked for the release of 150 Palestinian prisoners in Israel. Israeli jets and troops are expected to hold their fire during the truce and Hamas militants have been asked to stop launching rockets at Israel.
Meanwhile, Hamas also sought hundreds of trucks to deliver humanitarian aid and fuel to Gaza as part of the deal. These supplies would also reach northern Gaza, the most affected area in the war, for the first time since Israel’s ground offensive. Israel also agreed to allow a “significant” amount of fuel and other essential supplies.
An Israeli official earlier said that Hamas wanted a month-long cessation in the fighting but settled for four days. Israel said that the truce would extend for a day for the release of an additional 10 hostages.
Hamas claims to hold 210 of the 240 hostages it captured from Israel during its attack on October 7, while the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other factions hold the remaining 30. Hamas holds at least 98 women and children, and two women – Yehudit Weiss and Noa Marciano – were killed.
PM Modi’s reaction
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during a virtual G20 Summit, welcomed the release of hostages in the four-day truce between Isreal and Hamas, and reiterated that terrorism is unacceptable for all countries.
“The deaths of civilians in any country is condemnable. Today, we welcome the news of hostages being released and hope that all remaining hostages are released as soon as possible. It is important to provide timely and sustained humanitarian assistance. It is also important to ensure that the war between Israel and Hamas does not widen into a regional issue,” he said.
He further stressed that the ‘two-state solution’ to the Palestinian problem is the only way for a resolution in the Israel-Palestine conflict, while stressing the need for dialogue and diplomacy to maintain regional stability.
It should be mentioned here that the war erupted on October 7 when several thousand Hamas militants burst across the border into Israel, killing at least 1,200 people and taking hundreds hostage. Most of the dead were civilians. Israel responded with weeks of blistering airstrikes on Gaza, followed by a ground invasion that began over three weeks ago.
More than 13,000 Palestinians have been killed during the Israeli offensive, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-run territory. It does not differentiate between civilians and militants, though some two-thirds of the dead have been identified as women and minors. Israel says thousands of Hamas militants have been killed.