The temporary cease-fire that was negotiated between Israel and Hamas in Gaza took effect early Friday morning, setting the stage for an expected hostage release-prisoner swap later in the day.
The four-day truce will bring a halt in fighting to allow promised humanitarian relief for Gaza’s 2.3 million people, who have endured weeks of violence that was triggered when Hamas-led forces carried out the worst terror attack in Israel’s 75-year history, in which they took hundreds of hostages back across the border on Oct. 7.
The cease-fire kicked off at 7 a.m. local time (0500 GMT). During this period, Hamas has pledged to free at least 50 of the about 240 hostages it and other militants took on Oct. 7. Hamas said Israel would free 150 Palestinian prisoners, in a 3 prisoners-to-1 hostage ratio.
The truce-for-hostages deal will begin with both sides releasing women and children. Israel said the truce would be extended an extra day for every additional 10 hostages freed.
The deal was reached after weeks of intense negotiations, led by Qatar, the United States and Egypt serving as mediators. It is the first significant break in fighting since Israel declared war on Hamas seven weeks ago. Previous cease-fires have been interrupted before their intended deadline.
A first group of 13 women and children held by Hamas will be freed Friday afternoon, according to Qatari foreign ministry spokesman Majed al-Ansari.
Israel’s Justice Ministry published a list of 300 prisoners eligible to be released, mostly teenagers detained over the past year. Hamas is expected to release a similar list of Israel hostages on Friday.
As the fighting is suspended, supplies will be delivered to Palestinians in Gaza ‘as soon as possible,’ al-Ansari said Thursday.
Hamas said 200 trucks a day will enter Gaza carrying aid, including food, water and fuel, but has given no details on quantities.
The Qatari foreign ministry spokesman said the wider hope is that the ‘momentum’ from the cease-fire will lead to an ‘end to this violence.’
However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to destroy Hamas’ military capabilities and its governance of Gaza after the truce expires.
Such an elimination of Hamas would end its 16-year rule in Gaza. Netanyahu has also repeatedly committed to ensuring all the estimated 240 captives held in Gaza by Hamas and other groups are returned to Israel.
BIDEN ADMINISTRATION REACTS TO TEMPORARY CEASE-FIRE DEAL BETWEEN ISRAEL, HAMAS
‘We will continue it until we achieve all our goals,’ Netanyahu said.
During an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity earlier this week, Netanyahu said Israel was committed to winning the war against Hamas to eliminate its ‘dark tyranny’ from the Gaza Strip.
‘We have to win not only for our sake, but for the sake of the Middle East, for the sake of our Arab neighbors. You know what, for the sake of Gazans who’ve been held by this dark tyranny that has brutalized and brought them nothing but bloodshed and poverty and misery,’ Netanyahu said Monday. ‘We have to win to protect Israel. We have to win to safeguard the Middle East. We have to win for the sake of the civilized world. That’s the battle we’re fighting, and it’s being waged right now. There is no substitute for that victory.’
Israel further pushed back against speculation the temporary truce would bring an end to the fighting when Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was quoted as telling troops Thursday that the war would resume with intensity for at least two more months.
More than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza, which does not differentiate between civilians and militants in its death tolls.
Israel says it has killed thousands of Hamas fighters, but the exact figures have not been provided.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.