DOHA/GAZA (Reuters): Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas will start a four-day truce on Friday morning with a first group of 13 Israeli women and child hostages released later that day, mediators in Qatar said.
The agreement – the first in a brutal, near seven-week-old war – would begin at 7 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) and involve a comprehensive ceasefire in north and south Gaza, Qatar’s foreign ministry said.
Additional aid would start flowing into Gaza and the first hostages including elderly women would be freed at 4 p.m., with the total number rising to 50 over the four days, ministry spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari said in the Qatari capital Doha.
It was expected Palestinians would be released from Israeli jail, he told reporters. “We all hope that this truce will lead to a chance to start a wider work to achieve a permanent truce.”
Hamas – which had been expected to declare a truce with Israel a day earlier on Thursday only for negotiations to drag on – confirmed on its Telegram channel that all hostilities from its forces would cease.
Israel had received an initial list of hostages to be freed from the Gaza Strip and was in touch with families, the Israeli prime minister’s office said in a statement that stopped short of confirming a truce had been agreed.
Qatar said an operations room in Doha would monitor the truce and the release of hostages, and had direct lines of communication with Israel, the Hamas political office in Doha, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Egypt – also involved in mediation – is receiving lists of hostages and prisoners that are expected to be released and called on both sides to respect the agreement, Diaa Rashwan, the head of Egypt’s state information service, said in a statement.