Israel, Hamas temporary ceasefire postponed 24 hours
Israel reports there is a 24-hour delay in the ceasefire agreement because the deal was not signed by Hamas and mediator Qatar. Photo: AFP/Getty
The release of hostages under a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas militants has been postponed for 24 hours, Israel’s national security adviser says.
Israel and Hamas agreed early on Wednesday to a ceasefire in Gaza for at least four days, to let in aid and free at least 50 hostages held by militants in the Palestinian enclave in exchange for at least 150 Palestinians jailed in Israel.
The starting time of the truce and release of hostages captured by Hamas during its October 7 attack on Israel had yet to be officially announced. An Egyptian security source said mediators sought a start time of 10am on Thursday.
Israel’s public broadcaster Kan, citing an Israeli official, reported there was a 24-hour delay in the agreement because the deal was not signed by Hamas and mediator Qatar. The official said they were optimistic the agreement will be implemented when it is signed.
“Negotiations for the release of our captives are progressing and continue all the time,” Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said in a statement released by the prime minister’s office.
“The start of the release will proceed according to the original agreement between the parties, and not before Friday,” Hanegbi said.
The first truce in a near seven-week-old war was hailed around the world as a sign of progress that could ease the suffering of civilians in Israeli-besieged Gaza and bring more Israeli captives home. Arab ministers praised the agreement but said it should become a first step toward a full ceasefire.
Israel on Wednesday said the ceasefire could be extended further if more hostages were freed, and a Palestinian source said as many as 100 hostages in total could be released by the end of the month.
Hamas and allied groups captured about 240 hostages when Islamist gunmen rampaged through southern Israeli towns on October 7. Previously, Hamas had released just four.
A statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office on Tuesday night said 50 women and children would be released over four days at a rate of at least 10 daily. Beyond that, the truce could be extended day by day as long as an additional 10 hostages were freed per day.
Hamas said the initial 50 hostages would be released in exchange for 150 Palestinian women and children imprisoned in Israel. Hundreds of trucks of humanitarian, medical and fuel supplies would enter Gaza, while Israel would halt all air sorties over southern Gaza and maintain a daily six-hour daytime no-fly window in the north, the enclave’s ruling Islamists said.
Israel has subjected Gaza to siege and relentless bombardment since the Hamas attack, which killed 1200 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli tallies. Since then, more than 14,000 Gazans have been killed, around 40 per cent of them children, according to medical officials in the territory.
Qatar’s chief negotiator in ceasefire talks, Minister of State at the Foreign Ministry Mohammed Al-Khulaifi, told Reuters the truce meant there would be “no attack whatsoever. No military movements, no expansion, nothing”.
The truce deal is a first small step towards calm in the most violent ruction of the 75-year-old Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The past seven weeks have shocked the world because of the suffering of civilians on both sides, beginning with the killing of Israeli families in their homes and continuing with devastation rained down on Gaza, home to 2.3 million people.
US President Joe Biden was among international leaders who welcomed the deal. Three Americans, including a three-year-old girl whose parents were killed on October 7, are expected to be among the hostages to be released, a senior US official said.
Hamas said in its statement: “As we announce the striking of a truce agreement, we affirm that our fingers remain on the trigger, and our victorious fighters will remain on the look-out to defend our people and defeat the occupation.”