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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Israel and Hamas work to clinch details of cease-fire and hostage deal

Ambulances evacuating premature babies who had been in intensive care at Al-Shifa Hospital head to the border crossing with Egypt in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, Nov. 20, 2023.

By Patrick Kingsley and Ronen Bergman

Hours after Israel and Hamas agreed to a temporary cease-fire and the release of some hostages and prisoners, negotiators were trying to hammer out crucial details of the deal.

As of Wednesday afternoon, they had not announced specific plans for an exchange of at least 150 Palestinian women and children jailed by Israel for at least 50 Israeli women and children held in the Gaza Strip, including when it will start and who will be included. The Israeli military also said that it “continued to fight in the Gaza Strip,” highlighting that the agreement to pause fighting for at least four days had not taken effect.

Among the issues still under discussion, according to Israeli officials:

— Israel’s Supreme Court was weighing a private petition against the deal, a spokesperson for the court said Wednesday afternoon, delaying Israel’s ability to start the pause until at least Thursday.

— Hamas and Israel still disagree on how many captives are held in Gaza, making it hard to work out who exactly will be released, according to four Israeli officials who spoke anonymously to discuss a sensitive matter.

— Israel published a shortlist of 300 Palestinians who could be released from Israeli jails, but it had yet to narrow the list to 150 names.

— The process and route by which the hostages would be transferred to Israel was still being determined, according to a fifth Israeli official who also spoke anonymously to discuss a sensitive matter.

— The pause would allow for an increase in humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, through both the Egyptian and Israeli borders. But there was not yet agreement on the amount of supplies that would be allowed through, according to the fifth Israeli official.

Some details have been firmed up. Israeli officials have confirmed that the Israeli air force will not fly over southern Gaza and will have a six-hour daily window in which there will be no flights in the northern end of the territory.

In an official statement, the Israeli government said that the hostages would be released in four phases during the pause in fighting, with at least 10 hostages released at each stage.

Hamas and its allies in Gaza captured about 240 hostages during their raid on southern Israel on Oct. 7, which also killed an estimated 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials. Israel has responded with thousands of airstrikes and by invading Gaza with ground forces, killing more than 12,000 people in the fighting, according to health officials in the Hamas-controlled territory.

If the multiday pause holds, it would be the longest halt in hostilities since the start of the 47-day war. But with no third party on the ground to secure the deal, it could easily break down, like many other cease-fire deals in the long history of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Hamas said in a statement on Wednesday that while it had agreed to a truce, “our hands will remain on the trigger.”

And Israeli officials have said that their war in Gaza will continue once the pause ends.

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