After 45 days of war in the Middle East, Israel and Hamas have reached a deal to enact a temporary cease-fire and release around 50 hostages.
In a post on X, Qatar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced it, along with Egypt and the U.S., had brokered a deal between Israel and Hamas that will allow a pause in hostilities and the release of some 50 women and children held hostage by Hamas. In exchange, Israel agreed to release an unspecified number of Palestinian women and children held in Israeli prisons.
The cease-fire would extend by another day for every additional 10 hostages released, the Israeli government said.
A senior Biden administration official who briefed reporters on details of the agreement said the initial release is expected to include three Americans — two women and one 3-year-old girl.
The release of hostages would involve a "full pause in military operations," the official said, and said negotiators hope it will also lead to a pause in other regional hostilities, such as at Lebanon's border with Israel.
Negotiators also hope the pause and negotiations will lead to more opportunities for delivering humanitarian assistance.
The official cautioned that implementing the agreed deal won't start until about 24 hours after its announcement.
"As President, I have no higher priority than ensuring the safety of Americans held hostage around the world," said U.S. President Joe Biden in a statement concerning the new agreement. "That’s why—from the earliest moments of Hamas’s brutal assault—my national security team and I have worked closely with regional partners to do everything possible to secure the release of our fellow citizens. We saw the first results of that effort in late October, when two Americans were reunited with their loved ones. Today’s deal should bring home additional American hostages, and I will not stop until they are all released."
A senior administration official told reporters Qatar approached the U.S. and Israel after the Oct. 7 attack, seeking to organize efforts to release hostages.
There were daily senior-level engagements with Qatar, Israel and Egypt, the official said. President Biden was directly engaged in negotiations, sometimes on an hourly basis.
On Oct. 20, officials in the U.S. and Israel confirmed the release of two hostages, Judith Raanan and her teenage daughter Natalie Raanan. Efforts to secure a wider hostage release intensified immediately afterward, the official said.
President Biden worked with the Emir of Qatar to arrange specific requirements: Negotiators wanted to know the ages, genders and nationalities for a group of 50 hostages, specifically including identification of babies, toddlers and mothers.
By Nov. 18, negotiators were closing on a deal that would arrange for women and children to be released first, but "with the clear aim to bring all hostages home to their families," the official said.
By Nov. 19, the official said, Egypt had relayed comments from Hamas responding to the proposed deal and moving it further toward finalization.
Israel will continue war
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his cabinet Tuesday for a vote on the cease-fire. Netanyahu said the war with Hamas will continue after the agreed truce ends.
“We are at war, and we will continue the war,” he said, according to The Associated Press. “We will continue until we achieve all our goals.”
Hamas is holding more than 230 people hostage, including 10 Americans.
Hamas reportedly asked that there be no surveillance drones or planes in the sky above Gaza for the entire cease-fire period. This is a real concern for Israel, given that it thinks Hamas could use this time to re-gather and re-arm itself.
Israel began attacking Hamas after the terrorist organization launched a surprise attack on Oct.7. Israel said around 1,200 people were killed in the attack. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry says more than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed in response to the surprise attack. However, the agency noted on Tuesday it has lost the ability to count the dead due to deteriorating conditions in Gaza.
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