Israel has agreed to release three prisoners for every hostage set free by Hamas during the four-day ceasefire
Israel has said that more hostages being held by Hamas since the militant group’s cross-border attack on October 7 will be exchanged for Palestinian prisoners in what is the second day of a truce deal that has allowed crucial humanitarian aid into Gaza.
On Friday’s first day of the four-day ceasefire that has paused the intense bombardment of the besieged enclave, Hamas released 24 of around 240 hostages seized by its militants since the surprise attack that triggered seven weeks of war so far. In exchange, Israel freed 39 Palestinians. The hostages released from captivity in Gaza were 13 Israelis, ten people from Thailand, and one from the Philippines.
Israel’s prison service said on Saturday that it was preparing for the release of a further 42 Palestinian prisoners, while Hamas is expected to exchange 14 Israeli hostages. Under the terms of the four-day cease-fire, Hamas has agreed to release one Israeli hostage for every three Palestinian prisoners freed from Israeli jails.
Throughout the four-day truce, Hamas is expected to release around 50 Israeli captives, while Israel is set to hand over 150 Palestinians – all of whom are women and children. Israel has also indicated that the cease-fire can be extended by a day for every ten hostages freed by Hamas.
Speaking on Friday, US President Joe Biden said that he was optimistic that the truce terms could be extended, telling reporters that he believes “the chances are real” of an extension beyond the initial four-day period.
“My expectation and hope is that as we move forward, the rest of the Arab world and the region is also putting pressure on all sides to slow this down, to bring this to an end as quickly as we can,” Biden said.
However, Abu Ubaida, a spokesperson for Hamas’ armed faction, called the agreement a “temporary truce,” adding in a video message on Friday a call for an “escalation of the confrontation… on all resistance fronts.”
Israel’s Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant, meanwhile, refused to speculate on what he referred to as a “short” pause in the conflict, adding that “the war [and] fighting will continue with great might,” Reuters reported on Friday.
The United Nations has said that the brief accord between Israel and Hamas has allowed it to increase the supply of food, water, and medicine to its largest levels since aid convoys were again permitted to enter Gaza on October 21. It has also overseen the delivery of about 129,000 liters of fuel, or around 10% of the daily pre-war volume, for the first time since the renewed conflict began.
Per the advocacy group the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, Israel currently has about 7,200 Palestinians imprisoned – including nearly 2,000 arrested since October 7. Gazan authorities have said that more than 14,000 people have so far died during the seven-week war.