The Israeli government has approved a temporary ceasefire in its war on Gaza to facilitate the release of 50 hostages captured by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Wednesday.
After the announcement of the ceasefire, Hamas released a statement, confirming that 50 women and children currently held captive in Gaza would be released in exchange for Tel Aviv releasing 150 Palestinian women and children from Israeli jails, reported Al Jazeera.
The Israeli government said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that it is obligated to ensure that all the hostages return home. “Tonight, the government has approved the outline of the first stage of achieving this goal, according to which at least 50 hostages – women and children – will be released over four days, during which a pause in the fighting will be held,” it said.
It said that the release of every additional 10 hostages would result in an additional day in the pause on fighting.
However, the prime minister’s office said that Israel “will continue the war in order to return home all of the hostages, complete the elimination of Hamas and ensure that there will be no new threat to the state of Israel from Gaza”.
United States President Joe Biden welcomed the deal, saying he was “extraordinarily gratified that some of these brave souls... will be reunited with their families once this deal is fully implemented.”
Biden also commended Qatar and Egypt for their “critical leadership” in brokering the deal. “Today’s deal should bring home additional American hostages, and I will not stop until they are all released,” he added.
Hamas is believed to be holding over 200 hostages, taken when it led an incursion into southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people and triggering the war. Since then, over 13,000 Palestinians, including around 5,500 children, have been killed in Gaza in relentless air and ground strikes by Israeli forces.
Israel has also blockaded Gaza, leading to a massive humanitarian crisis as residents have been cut off from vital resources such as fuel and electricity. Residents of Gaza have been dealing with shortages of food, water and healthcare.
The militant group also said that Israel would stop all military actions in Gaza during the ceasefire, allowing hundreds of trucks carrying humanitarian, medical and fuel aid into the territory.
Qatar, where Hamas has a political office, had been mediating a deal for a ceasefire between the militant group and Israel.
The West Asian country’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday that the time when the ceasefire begins will be announced within the next 24 hours. It also confirmed that during the ceasefire, Israel will release “a number of Palestinian women and children” detained in Israeli prisons, without giving an exact number.
“The state of Qatar affirms its commitment to ongoing diplomatic efforts to deescalate tensions, stop the bloodshed, and protect civilians,” it said.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also welcomed the decision on Wednesday at a G20 virtual summit.
“We agree that terrorism is unacceptable to us all and killing of civilians anywhere is worth strong criticism,” Modi said. “I welcome the news of release of hostages. It is essential for humanitarian aid to reach on time. It is also imperative to ensure that the Israel-Hamas war does not turn into a regional conflict.”