Israel-Hamas truce, captive release to begin on Friday, Qatar says

Truce to begin in the morning and 13 people held by Hamas to be freed in the afternoon, Qatari official says.

Palestinians search for survivors of the Israeli bombing in Rafah, Gaza Strip
Palestinians search for survivors of Israeli bombing in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip [Hatem Ali/AP Photo]

A four-day truce between Israel and the Palestinian armed group Hamas will begin on Friday morning with civilian captives set to be released from the Gaza Strip later in the day, a spokesman for Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs says.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, ministry spokesperson Majed al-Ansari said the four-day truce will begin at 7am (05:00 GMT) and 13 captives held by Hamas will be released at 4pm (14:00 GMT) with increased humanitarian aid entering Gaza “as soon as possible”.

“Those hostages who are from the same families will be put together within the same batch,” he said.

“Every day will include a number of civilians as agreed to total 50 within the four days.”

Palestinians would be released from Israeli prisons as part of the deal, which also includes a cessation of hostilities across Gaza, he said.

Israel and Hamas, which have been at war since October 7, announced a deal on Wednesday allowing at least 50 captives in Gaza and scores of Palestinian prisoners to be freed during the truce.

The initial 13 captives scheduled to be released by Hamas are women and children, and al-Ansari said that while he could not disclose the number of Palestinian prisoners to be released on Friday, he said the deal was “reciprocal, so we’re expecting a release to happen also on the Israeli side”.

Al-Ansari also said the Red Cross was coordinating with all parties involved with the release of the captives held in Gaza.

“Our main objective here is the safety of the hostages,” he said.

The armed wing of Hamas confirmed in a statement on Telegram that the four-day truce would start at 7am.

During the truce, all military actions by Hamas’s Qassam Brigades and Israeli forces would cease, the statement added.

The Israeli prime minister’s office said Israel received an initial list of hostages to be released from Gaza.

“The relevant authorities are checking the details of the list and are presently in contact with all the families,” it said in a statement.

The announcement comes after almost seven weeks of devastating fighting after Hamas launched attacks on southern Israel on October 7, which killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli officials, and took more than 240 hostage.

In Israel, families of those taken hostage have pleaded for the return of their loved ones. Numerous people from other countries were also taken captive in the assault.

Israel has responded to the Hamas attacks with a devastating assault on the besieged Gaza Strip, severely restricting access to food, electricity and fuel for its more than 2.3 million residents and levelling entire neighbourhoods in a relentless bombardment as Israeli ground forces battle with Hamas fighters in northern Gaza.

Palestinian authorities said at least 14,532 people have been killed in the Israeli assault, including 6,000 children, and humanitarian conditions have sharply deteriorated under constant siege and bombardment. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been displaced with few options for seeking refuge in the tightly packed strip.

While humanitarian organisations have stressed that only a permanent ceasefire can address the catastrophic scale of civilian suffering in Gaza, many Palestinians, exhausted after weeks of continuous bombing, have welcomed the pause as a much-needed respite.

Speaking with Al Jazeera after the truce was first announced on Wednesday, Gaza resident Khaled Loz said he plans to use the truce to catch up on sleep.

“It’s the first thing I want to do,” he said. “I’m tired of all the continuous bombing.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies