Israel's cabinet approves deal for release of 50 hostages held by Hamas

The first group of hostages are expected to be released as early as Thursday


Israel's Cabinet has approved a deal with the Hamas terrorist group to release 50 hostages in exchange for a four-day ceasefire and the release of Palestinian prisoners.

The first batch of hostages is expected to be released as early as Thursday, with Hamas having agreed to release 12 to 13 hostages each day and release 150 to 300 female and teenage Palestinian prisoners.

As part of the agreement, Hamas will allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit the remaining hostages in Gaza and provide medical assistance to those who need it.

A statement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said: "The government approved the broad outlines of the first stage of an agreement under which at least 50 kidnapped people - women and children - will be released over four days during which there will be a lull in the fighting."

CNN reported on Tuesday that Israel had agreed to refrain from using surveillance drones in Gaza for six hours a day during the ceasefire.

Israel 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 meetings on Tuesday evening of the Israeli War Cabinet, the broader Political-Security Cabinet and the entire Cabinet.

US and Qatari officials have also been involved in discussions to reach a deal.

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.”

IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus added: “After the hostage deal is implemented, we will continue dismantling Hamas while respecting humanitarian law on the ground.

"We will remain vigilant during the pause and use the time to prepare for future operations.”

Some 240 hostages captured during Hamas’s October 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 October 20. Nurit Cooper, 79, and Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, were let go three days later.

Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron said of the deal: "This agreement is a crucial step towards providing relief to the families of the hostages and addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

"I urge all parties to ensure the agreement is delivered in full. Of course, we want to see all hostages released immediately and families affected by the horrors of the October 7 terror attack reunited.

"This pause provides an important opportunity to ensure much greater volumes of food, fuel and other life-saving aid can reach Gaza on a sustained basis.

"We have already doubled our aid commitment to Palestinians this year and will work closely with the UN to ensure it reaches those who need it.

"The UK will continue to work with all partners in the region to secure the release of all hostages, restore security and reach a long-term political solution which enables both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace."

JNS contributed to this report

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