Qatar on Wednesday announced a truce-for-hostages deal between Israel and Hamas that would bring a four-day halt in fighting in a devastating six-week war, win freedom for dozens of hostages held in the Gaza Strip, and also lead to the release of dozens of Palestinian prisoners.
The deal, which was brokered by Qatari mediators in coordination with the US and other partners, was confirmed by both Israel and Hamas in separate statements. It is expected to take effect on Thursday at noon local time, and to be extended by one day for every additional 10 hostages released by Hamas.
According to the deal, Hamas will release about 50 civilian hostages, who were taken by the Palestinian militant group on October 7, when it launched a surprise attack on southern Israel and killed more than 1,400 civilians and soldiers. The hostages include Israeli, American, British, French and German nationals, as well as journalists and aid workers.
In exchange, Israel will release about 150 Palestinian women and children, who are held in Israeli jails for various security offenses. Israel will also increase the amount of humanitarian aid and fuel allowed into Gaza, which has been under a tight blockade and bombardment by Israel since the start of the war.
The deal also stipulates that both sides will refrain from any military actions or provocations during the truce period, and that they will resume indirect negotiations for a lasting ceasefire and a political solution to the conflict.
The deal was welcomed by the UN, the EU, the Arab League and other international actors, who praised Qatar’s role in facilitating the dialogue and the agreement. They also expressed hope that the deal would ease the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and pave the way for a comprehensive and durable peace in the region.
The war between Israel and Hamas has claimed more than 14,000 Palestinian, according to health officials. The UN has said that more than half of Gaza’s population lacks access to basic services and humanitarian aid, and that more than 30,000 people have been injured by Israeli attacks.
The war was triggered by Hamas’ attack on October 7, which was seen as a response to Israel’s occupation and annexation of East Jerusalem, where the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam, is located. The compound, which is also revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, has been a flashpoint of the conflict for decades, as both sides claim religious and historical rights to the site.
The war has also sparked unrest and violence in the West Bank, where more than 2.5 million Palestinians live under Israeli military occupation, and in Israel itself, where clashes and riots have erupted between Jewish and Arab citizens.
The war has also strained the relations between Israel and its allies, especially the US, which has faced criticism for its continued support and arms sales to Israel, despite the civilian casualties and the human rights violations. The US has also blocked any action by the UN Security Council that could be seen as critical of Israel.
The war has also exposed the divisions and the challenges within the Palestinian leadership, which is split between the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA), which governs the West Bank and is recognized by most of the world as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and Hamas, which controls Gaza and is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the US and the EU.
The war has also highlighted the need for a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has been unresolved for more than seven decades, and which has caused immense suffering and injustice to both sides. The solution, according to most of the international community, is the creation of a viable and independent Palestinian state that would coexist peacefully with Israel, based on the 1967 borders and with mutually agreed land swaps.