Israel-Hamas ceasefire in effect as anxious wait for hostages begins

Hamas is expected to release the hostages at 4pm, just minutes before Shabbat


A four-day ceasefire between Israel and Hamas went into effect on Friday at 7am Israeli time, as the Jewish state anxiously awaits the return of the first batch of 13 hostages held in the Gaza Strip since October 7.

During the truce, Israeli troops will be stationed “on the ceasefire line in the Gaza Strip and move along these lines,” IDF Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said on Thursday night.

“Even amid the process, there may be changes at any moment,” he said, adding that “Hamas will try to use the days of the deal and the pause in fighting to spread fear, disinformation and psychological terror.”

Hamas is expected to release the hostages at 4 pm, just minutes before Shabbat begins at sunset, following which Israel will free an unspecified number of Palestinian terrorists from Israeli jails.

According to Qatar, which has long acted as a mediator for the Palestinian terrorists, the Israeli hostages set to be freed are “all women and children.” Mothers will be released together with their children, said Doha.

As part of the deal approved by the Israeli Cabinet on Wednesday, Hamas will release 12 to 13 hostages each day of the four-day truce. The release of every additional 10 hostages will result in one additional day in the pause in combat.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu confirmed Thursday night that his government had received a preliminary list of people set to be freed. Brig. Gen. Gal Hirsch, Israel’s coordinator for the captives and missing, said that liaison officers reached out to their loved ones.

The International Committee of the Red Cross told Arab media that the hostages would be released through the Rafah crossing with Egypt before returning to Israel, according to the Kan News public broadcaster.

The IDF will refrain from using surveillance drones in Gaza for six hours each day of the ceasefire. Israel will also allow fuel to enter the Strip during that time and dramatically increase the volume of goods permitted into the enclave.

Israel also agreed to commute the sentences of at least 150 female and teenage Palestinian security prisoners, or three terrorists for every hostage that is released. The Palestinian terrorists, many of whom are affiliated with Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, will be allowed to return to their previous places of residence in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Some 240 hostages captured during Hamas’s Oct. 7 cross-border massacre of 1,200 people are currently being held in Gaza, including at least 118 foreign and dual nationals.

Hamas previously released four hostages for what it said were “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.

Last week, IDF 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.

As the Cabinet convened 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 propaganda video circulated by the Iranian-backed terror group.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Thursday told troops that the Jewish state would “complete the victory and create the impetus for the next groups of hostages, who will only come back as a result of pressure.

“I estimate that in the next month or two, at least in December and January, and perhaps longer, there will be intense fighting of the kind we’re currently seeing, and in some places even more,” Gallant said during a visit with the Navy’s Shayetet 13 commando unit.

Gallant’s remarks echoed those of Netanyahu, who addressed the nation on Wednesday night and vowed to “continue until we achieve all our objectives.”

The IDF operation will not end until “no element that supports terrorism, educates its children for terrorism, and pays terrorists or their families, will control Gaza,” said Netanyahu.

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