Israel, the United States and Hamas have reached a tentative agreement to free dozens of women and children held hostage in Gaza in exchange for a five-day pause in fighting, the Washington Post reported on Saturday, citing people familiar with the deal.
As part of the detailed, six-page agreement, all parties would freeze combat operations for at least five days while ‘an initial 50 or more hostages are released in smaller groups every 24 hours’, the Post reported.
Hamas took about 240 hostages during its October 7 rampage inside Israel that killed 1,200 people.
It was not immediately clear how many of the 239 people believed to be in captivity in Gaza would be released under the deal. The newspaper said overhead surveillance would monitor ground movement to help police the pause, which also is intended to allow in a significant amount of humanitarian aid.
But early on Sunday morning in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied that any such deal was in place.
Israel, the United States and Hamas have reached a tentative agreement to free dozens of women and children held hostage in Gaza in exchange for a five-day pause in fighting, the Washington Post reported on Saturday, citing people familiar with the deal
Civil defense teams, alongside local residents, conduct search and rescue operation within the debris of the residential buildings after Israeli attacks hit residential buildings at Jabalia Camp in Jabalia, Gaza on November 18, 2023
Early on Sunday morning in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied that any such deal was in place
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, of the Islamic group Hamas has been represented in meetings by Qatari mediators
Netanyahu said ‘as of now’ there no deal had yet been reached to secure the release hostages being held by Hamas dismissing ‘a lot of incorrect reports’ about imminent agreements.
During a press conference he added that if a deal emerges, the Israeli public would be told.
Similar denials were made by the White House: ‘No deal yet but we continue to work hard to get a deal,’ said Adrienne Watson, spokesperson for the White House’s National Security Council.
According to the Post, however, it is believed the pause in fighting would allow for a significant increase in the amount of humanitarian assistance, including fuel, to enter from Egypt.
The deal is said to be the outcome of weeks of talks in Doha, Qata involving Israel, the United States and Hamas who were represented by Qatari mediators.
Pressure has been increasing on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government with more than 100 countries calling for a full and immediate cease-fire – although, most notably, not the United States.
An IDF soldier directs a tank driver by gesturing near the northern Gaza border on November 17, 2023
People mourn as they collect the bodies of Palestinians killed in airstrikes on November 18, 2023 in Khan Yunis, Gaza
Military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari (pictured) said Israel opened a safe corridor for civilians who were in the hospital to go south, at the request of the hospital director
Two of the captives taken by Hamas have since been found dead and Hamas say 12,300 civilian Palestinians including 5,000 children have been killed during the conflict which is now entering its seventh week.
Netanyahu said the Israeli offensive into Gaza would continue – although he has now allowed the first steady fuel transfers into the enclave since the start of the war.
Israel cut off all deliveries of food, water and medicine to Gaza’s 2.3 million residents.
‘For international support to continue, humanitarian aid is essential,’ Netanyahu said. ‘Because of that, we accepted the recommendation to bring fuel into Gaza.’
The rumors of a ceasefire comes as thousands of hostage families together with their supporters took five days to march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem demanding government action.
Family members and supporters of some 240 hostages held in Gaza have protested in Jerusalem today over Netanyahu’s handling of the war with Hamas and pleaded with the government to do more to bring their loved ones home
The march capped a five-day trek from Tel Aviv and represented the largest protest on behalf of the hostages since they were dragged into Gaza by Hamas on October 7 as part of the militants’ deadly attack in southern Israel
The families say that the lives of innocent Israelis were worth any short-term deal the government has to make to secure their release.
Late on Saturday night a spokesperson for the Israeli Embassy said ‘we are not going to comment’ on any aspect of the hostage situation.
The hostage release could begin within the next several days, according to people familiar with the agreement.