Israel, Hamas to pause fighting to free hostages in US-brokered deal: report
A tentative US-brokered deal between Israel and Hamas could free several women and children being held hostage in Gaza — and lead to a five-day halt in fighting, the first since the war began six weeks ago, according to a report that the White House denied.
Dozens of women and children could be freed in the next several days, which would coincide with the first pause since Hamas’ shocking Oct. 7 attack on Israel, sources familiar with the deal told the Washington Post Saturday night.
However, in a tweet responding to the report, White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson wrote that a deal has not yet been reached “but we continue to work hard to get to a deal.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters earlier Saturday that “there was no deal on the table” regarding the hostages “as of now,” and dismissed “incorrect reports” about the situation, The Times of Israel reported.
According to the Washington Post, military operations on both sides will be suspended for at least five days under close aerial surveillance, per the six-page agreement. During the pause, 50 or more hostages will be released in groups every 24 hours.
Some 239 hostages are being held captive by the terrorist group in total.
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In turn, a significant amount of humanitarian aid will enter Gaza from Egypt, supplying the besieged enclave with dire necessities such as fuel, food and water, WaPo reported.
Qatar mediators had been hosting discussions about a potential pause with representatives from the US, Israel and Hamas in Doha. Hamas allegedly agreed to the general outlines of the deal days ago, but Israel had held out.
A spokesperson for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC, told the paper it would not comment on the development.
The deal comes amid international pressure for a ceasefire — which has been dismissed by Israel and the United States — and emotional calls from Israelis at home to have the hostages returned.
Some 30,000 Israelis concluded a five-day march to Jerusalem on Saturday demanding the government bring home their loved ones who they haven’t seen in 43 days.
In a lengthy speech Saturday, Netanyahu declared Israel’s military offensive would continue into Gaza, where more than 12,000 Palestinians have been killed since the war began.
The Biden administration has fully supported a temporary pause in the fighting to allow the influx of humanitarian aid to Gaza.