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Israel, Hamas agree to temporary ceasefire in exchange for 50 hostages. What does it mean? | Explained

Israel has agreed to a short pause in fighting in exchange for the release of 50 hostages, while it will release 150 Palestinian prisoners in return. The heavy bombardment and intense ground operations in Gaza have killed tens and thousands of Palestinians and created a humanitarian crisis.

Aveek Banerjee Written By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Gaza Published on: November 22, 2023 20:07 IST
Israel and Hamas agreed to a short truce amid heavy
Image Source : AP Israel and Hamas agreed to a short truce amid heavy fighting.

Israel and Hamas have agreed to a deal with Qatari mediators for a four-day temporary truce and the release of around 50 hostages, amid heavy fighting in the Gaza Strip. The deal has brought in some respite to war-affected Palestinians while providing relief to the loved ones of some of the hostages.

As the war entered its seventh week, the pre-truce situation in Gaza remained perilous as Israeli forces clashed with Hamas fighters in central neighbourhoods in the besieged territory. Further complicating the situation was an Israeli military operation in Gaza's largest hospital, Al-Shifa, which is considered to be no longer functioning due to a lack of essential supplies.

The worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza became most apparent with two-thirds of hospitals stopped operating as they ran out of fuel, water, electricity and food as the number of deaths and those of injured continue to rise. Several patients were also among those killed while doctors were forced to amputate the limbs of those grievously injured.

The temporary truce, which was brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States, would begin on Thursday morning after weeks of negotiations amid increasing pressure for an immediate ceasefire to curb the crisis in Gaza. 

What does the deal promise?

Qatar announced that Hamas would release 50 out of the nearly 240 hostages captured during the group's brutal attack on Israel on October 7 that killed over 1,200 people. In return, Hamas asked for the release of 150 Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

The people released from both sides include women and children. The hostages would be released in groups throughout the temporary ceasefire. After the first batch of hostages, the Israeli side would release the first group of Palestinian prisoners. Israel also said that the truce would be extended for a day for every ten additional hostages.

According to Israel's Justice Ministry, the Palestinians to be released include teenagers who were detained during violent attacks in the occupied West Bank region in 2022 and 2023. Israel currently has roughly 7,000 Palestinians accused or convicted of security-related offences.

This represents a classic Hamas strategy of capturing Israeli civilians and holding them hostage in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners. Israel has been forced to release a large group of such prisoners in the past after periodic attacks from Hamas militants.

Israeli jets and troops are expected to hold their fire during the truce and Hamas militants have been asked to stop launching rockets at Israel. Warplanes will stop flying over southern Gaza during the truce and only for six hours over the north. However, Israel did not mention halting flights.

Delivery of humanitarian aid

Meanwhile, Hamas also sought hundreds of trucks to deliver humanitarian aid and fuel to Gaza as part of the deal. These supplies would also reach northern Gaza, the most affected area in the war, for the first time since Israel's ground offensive.

Israel also agreed to allow a "significant" amount of fuel and humanitarian supplies into Gaza, after previously limiting such access, causing severe shortages of water, food and fuel, adding to the problems of Palestinians affected by the war.

Before the deal was announced, several trucks carrying essential humanitarian aid had already entered Gaza from the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. However, UN agencies and other organisations there have said that they are not enough to control the dire situation in the Strip.

According to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, more than 13,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli airstrikes and ground operations since the war broke out, many of them comprising women and minors. Several babies in Al-Shifa hospital have also died as a consequence of limited supplies.

Possible implications of the deal

Although a significant step in the conflict after months of negotiations, the four-day truce is unlikely to change the course of the Israel-Hamas war. Israel is expected to continue where it let things off after the truce period is over.

This was confirmed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who said that the war would resume after the ceasefire expires. "We are at war, and we will continue the war. We will continue until we achieve all our goals," he said.

What this means is that Israel would resume its airstrikes and its troops will continue their ground operations in Gaza. However, the deal will likely to bolster Hamas, who said that the truce was meant to 'enhance their steadfastness'.

With a short break in fighting, militants can strategise better in their next stage of operations, regroup and change military tactics to combat the Israeli offensive. It can also press for the release of more Palestinian prisoners as Netanyahu is under increasing pressure at home from the families of the hostages.

Almost all countries welcomed the short ceasefire, including India, the United States, Russia, France, and Germany among others. Although they have their hopes of a permanent cessation of fighting, the decades-old conflict between the two sides makes a complete ceasefire a very difficult situation, at least for now.

ALSO READ | How is Iran-backed Hezbollah dragging Lebanon into Israel-Hamas war? Explained


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