CNN

Israel approves breakthrough hostage deal with Hamas

Nov 21, 2023, 7:19 PM

Black smoke rises from an Israeli airstrike on the outskirts of Aita al-Shaab, a Lebanese border vi...

Black smoke rises from an Israeli airstrike on the outskirts of Aita al-Shaab, a Lebanese border village with Israel, south Lebanon, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023. On Tuesday, Israel and Hamas agreed to a four-day cease fire. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

(AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

(CNN) — Israel’s cabinet has approved a breakthrough deal that would see the release of at least 50 hostages – women and children – from Gaza, according to an Israeli government statement, in what is expected to result in the first sustained pause in fighting and major de-escalatory step since Israel’s war with Hamas began.

The freeing of the hostages will come in exchange for a four-day truce in Israel’s air and ground campaign in Gaza, the statement said. It made no mention of the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, though it is understood this is also a key part of the deal. Earlier reports suggested about 150 Palestinian prisoners, also predominantly women and children, would be released.

The deal was approved by the Israeli cabinet by a significant majority, a government source told CNN.

The statement held out the potential for the truce to extend beyond the original four-day period, saying that an extra day would be added to the truce for each ten additional hostages available for release.

It also made clear that Israel plans to resume its air and ground campaign “to complete the eradication of Hamas” once this round of hostage releases concludes.

Details of arrangements would be sent to families of the hostages later today, the statement added.

A diplomatic source familiar with the talks told CNN “details on when the pause starts are still unclear.”

There are 239 hostages being held captive in Gaza, including foreign nationals from 26 countries, according to figures from the Israeli military. The mass abductions took place during on October 7, when Hamas militants struck across the border in coordinated attacks killing around 1,200 people – the largest such attack on Israel since the country’s founding in 1948.

The deal followed mounting pressure on the Israeli government from the families of the hostages, who have demanded answers and action from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the return of their loved ones.

Many of the hostages were seized at gunpoint during Hamas’ rampage of violence though border communities near the Gaza Strip and the nearby Nova music festival.

Israel responded to the attacks by imposing a blockade on Gaza that cut off supplies of food, water, medicines and fuel, and launched a relentless air and ground assault that has plunged the enclave into a dire humanitarian crisis.

More than 12,000 people have been killed in Gaza since October 7, according to the Hamas-run government’s press office.

Just a handful of hostages have been released prior to the deal. On October 20, two Americans – Judith Tai Raanan and her 17-year-old daughter Natalie Raanan – were freed on humanitarian grounds following negotiations between Qatar and Hamas.

Soon after, two Israeli women, Nurit Cooper and Yocheved Lifshitz, were also released.

Lifshitz said she “went through hell,” describing being snatched from her home and driven off on a motorbike before being taken to a network of tunnels.

The total number of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails is approximately 8,300, according to Qadura Fares, the head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, a non-governmental organization.

Of those 8,300, more than 3,000 are being held in what Israel calls “administrative detention,” which means they are being held without knowing the charges against them or an ongoing legal process.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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Israel approves breakthrough hostage deal with Hamas