A A four-day ceasefire Qatar announced on Thursday that a standoff between Israel and Hamas would begin Friday morning, with civilian hostages and Palestinian prisoners freed in the afternoon, hours after the deal first came into force.
A pause in the fighting will begin at 7 a.m. local time (midnight ET), with the release of the 13 women and child hostages at 4 p.m., said Majid al-Ansari, a spokesman for Qatar’s foreign ministry.
A list of hostages expected to be released has been handed over to Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, Al-Ansari said, adding that communications and negotiations between all mediating parties continued as of Thursday morning.
He also said that the Mossad would hand over to Qatar a list of Palestinian prisoners to be released. “Once both our lists are confirmed, we can start the process of evicting people,” the spokesperson said.
Responding to a question from CNN, al-Ansari said he could not reveal what path the freed hostages would take, but said they would work with the Red Cross and “parties of the conflict.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office confirmed it has received a preliminary list of hostages expected to be released.
Ofir Gendelman, the Israeli Prime Minister’s spokesman for the Arab world, wrote in X: “Israel confirms that it has received a preliminary list of the names of the abductees. Competent authorities are examining the details of the list and are in the meantime contacting all the abducted families.
An Israeli official told CNN on Wednesday that the ceasefire would begin at 10 a.m. local time (3 a.m. ET) on Thursday. takes place Hostages in Gaza. But plans to free the hostages were delayed late Wednesday, hours before the ceasefire was initially expected to begin.
Under the previously mentioned agreement, 150 Palestinian prisoners will be released from Israeli prisons. The prisoners involved were women and children, Hamas said Wednesday, and the deal also included the entry of hundreds of trucks carrying aid, medical supplies and fuel to all parts of the besieged territory.
The Israeli government released a list of 300 Palestinian prisoners for possible release on Wednesday as Israel offers a second round of exchanges.
The list includes the age of the prisoners and the charges they are being held on – stone-pelting and “harming territorial security” are among the most common. Others have been detained for supporting illegal terrorist organizations, illegal weapons charges, incitement and at least two counts of attempted murder.
Most of the Palestinian prisoners listed as eligible for release are male youths between the ages of 16 and 18 – children under the United Nations definition – although a few are as young as 14. According to CNN’s count, 33 were women.
Israel’s National Security Council earlier said in a statement that the first group of hostages would not be released before Friday. An Israeli official told CNN that an agreed-upon temporary ceasefire in the fighting had been delayed until Friday.
“Talks for the release of our hostages are progressing and ongoing. The commencement of the release process will take place as per the original agreement between the two parties and not before Friday,” the statement said.
Families and friends of hostages in Gaza called on Netanyahu to bring them home during a demonstration in Tel Aviv on November 21.
Ahmed Garabli/AFP/Getty Images
A billboard in Jerusalem features portraits of Israeli hostages captured by Palestinian militants.
Comments on current planning echo those of US officials.
A U.S. National Security Council spokesman insisted in a statement late Wednesday that the hostage deal “remains agreed upon” and that the parties are “developing final logistical details, particularly for the first day of implementation.”
“Our view is that nothing should be left to chance as the hostages begin to come home,” NSC spokesman Adrian Watson said. “Our primary objective is to ensure that they are brought home safely. That is on track and we hope to start enforcement on Friday morning.
An Israeli official familiar with the matter downplayed the severity, putting it down to “very small implementation details.”
Speaking at a press conference Wednesday evening before the delay was announced, Netanyahu expressed confidence that the deal would go into effect soon, even as he offered few details about its implementation.
However, the prime minister warned on Thursday that the evacuation of the first group of hostages from Gaza was “not without its challenges”.
“We hope to get this first tranche and then we are determined to get everyone out,” Netanyahu said during a meeting with British Foreign Minister David Cameron.
Officials and analysts in Israel have long warned that any deal would be risky until the hostages could safely cross the border.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) continued ground and air operations in Gaza on Wednesday, launching strikes in the northeastern and central parts of the Gaza Strip ahead of the expected start of a ceasefire. According to Palestinian accounts, areas further south, including Khan Yunis and Rafah, were also hit.
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The IDF said Israeli forces continued to attack targets through Thursday, including in northwestern Jabalya.
The IDF said on Thursday that Israeli soldiers found a tunnel inside a mosque and struck another tunnel in an agricultural area in Beit Hanoun. It said IDF soldiers had found “numerous weapons” and identified a tunnel into a civilian settlement in the area.
At a briefing on Wednesday before the delay was announced, Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari called the pending ceasefire a “complicated process” that “has not yet been finalized”.
The process “takes time and goes through a few stages,” he added.
The agreement marked a major diplomatic breakthrough nearly seven weeks after the start of a conflict that has turned into a severe humanitarian crisis in the enclave. The announcement was greeted with relief and high expectations from the families of the hostages.
Agreement, Qatar, the main negotiator, has laid out in a statement that hostages held by Hamas will be released in exchange for many Palestinian women and children in Israeli jails. The cease-fire, meanwhile, will allow for “larger numbers of humanitarian convoys and relief aid,” the statement said.
There is an option to extend the suspension to 10 days, but Israeli officials believe it is unlikely to last much longer.
Khatib/AFP/Getty Images said
A Palestinian doctor walks through the rubble of a building after an Israeli attack on Rafah.
And for every 10 hostages released, there would be an extra day of pause in fighting, Netanyahu said when the deal was ratified.
According to Israeli military figures, Hamas has taken 236 hostages in Gaza, including foreigners from 26 countries. The mass kidnappings at gunpoint came on October 7, when Hamas militants killed around 1,200 people in a coordinated and bloody surprise attack – the largest such attack since Israel’s founding in 1948.
Before the agreement, only a handful of hostages were released.
Israel responded to the attack by declaring war on Hamas, imposing a blockade on Gaza that cut off food, water, medicine and fuel supplies, and conducting relentless air and ground attacks. Some 12,700 people have been killed in Gaza since October 7, according to data from the Palestinian Ministry of Health in the West Bank based on information from health officials run by Hamas.
This is a developing story and will be updated.