The Israeli cabinet has approved a prisoner swap with Hamas that will see the release of 50 Israelis as well as a short truce
Israel expects Hamas to release the first hostages captured during the October 7 raid on Thursday, the country’s foreign minister, Eli Cohen, has told reporters. His statement came several hours after the Israeli cabinet gave the green light to a prisoner swap that involves 50 Israeli hostages and as many as 150 Palestinian female and child prisoners.
Over the last few days, several media outlets, as well as top US officials, including President Joe Biden, had suggested that such an agreement would materialize in the near future. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, stressed on Wednesday that the military operation against Hamas would resume once the truce was over.
Speaking to Israel’s Army Radio on Wednesday, Cohen said that the “process to begin recovering the hostages will begin first thing tomorrow morning.”
According to the country’s public broadcaster Kan, Hamas is expected to give the names of the first ten people to be released late on Wednesday. The media outlet also reported that the Qatar-brokered agreement would see 30 children, 12 mothers and eight elderly women set free.
Senior Hamas representative Musa Abu Marzook told Al Jazeera that the majority of these people hold foreign citizenship.
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus confirmed that his country would soon issue a list of Palestinian prisoners to be released.
On Wednesday morning, Netanyahu announced that “at least 50 hostages – women and children – will be released over four days, during which a pause in the fighting will be held.” He added that for every additional ten hostages freed, Israel would pause operations for one more day. This upcoming lull in the fighting, however, does not mean that Israel will eschew its goal of completely destroying Hamas, Netanyahu hastened to emphasize.
According to a post on Hamas’ Telegram channel, the deal will see the release of 150 Palestinian women and minors currently held in Israeli prisons. The militant group also revealed that Israel had agreed to suspend all military flights over southern Gaza for the duration of the truce, and to limit air operations in the northern part of the enclave.
Qatar, which acted as a mediator in the talks, said in its own statement that the “number of those released will be increased in later stages of implementing the agreement.”
Hamas took approximately 240 people hostage during its deadly incursion last month and has since set four of them free.