Temporary Gaza truce to begin at 7am on Friday

First 13 of 50 Israeli captives will be swapped for Palestinian prisoners at 4pm

Qatar announces four-day truce to begin on November 24

Qatar announces four-day truce to begin on November 24
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Gaza is on tenterhooks for the activation of a much-anticipated hostage deal on Friday at 7am, when a temporary cessation in hostilities will take place between Hamas and Israel who have been at war since October 7.

Qatar, which has played a pivotal role in negotiations between both parties, announced the start time of the arrangement on Thursday afternoon.

Under the deal, Gaza-based militant group Hamas will exchange 50 of the roughly 240 hostages it abducted from southern Israel on October 7 for up to 150 female and child Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.

The first swap will take place on Friday at 4pm and will involve 13 people.

The deal had been beset by delays amid fears that it might fall through at the last minute. There were widespread reports on Wednesday that the agreement would be activated at 10am Israel time on Thursday, ushering in a four-day cessation of hostilities and beginning the process of swapping captives and letting in much-needed humanitarian aid for Gazans.

That hope was dashed late on Wednesday night, after Israel’s national security adviser said no Hamas hostages would be released before Friday.

Palestinian officials told AFP on Thursday the delay was because of last-minute disagreements over which hostages would be released and how the process would take place.

The conflicting reports highlighted the fragile nature of the deal struck between two adversaries – each side has vowed to totally destroy the other – underlining the pressing need for international mediation at the highest level.

On Wednesday, The National reported on the tense negotiations, which were riddled with brinkmanship and distrust.

Lead Qatari negotiator Mohammed Al Khulaifi told CNN on Thursday morning the “work [to release hostages] was extremely intensive as you can imagine, it’s a period of high escalation, military clashes, humanitarian escalation, ground invasion”.

“Even the temporary ceasefire was not being considered at the early times by the Israelis, [but] our continuous efforts [and] continuous talks with the parties made that a reality,” he added.

“Gladly we've managed to secure an agreement between Israel and Hamas for a humanitarian pause with, of course, the release of the hostages [as] one of the main objectives of our work,” Mr Al Khulaifi said.

“Our main objective here is really to seek a permanent ceasefire, [stop] the bloodshed of the people and [improve] the lives of the Palestinian people."

Officials have said the four-day cessation of hostilities would follow a strict timetable in which a predetermined list of at least 10 Israeli hostages would be released each day.

On why the deal focuses on women and children on both sides, Mr Al Khulaifi said: “This comes from our strong belief that we stand on the [side] of the civilians, with no discrimination whatsoever in terms of their religion, race – they have nothing to do with this war and they need to stay out of this war.”

On Wednesday, Israel released a 23-page list of 300 Palestinian prisoners it said it was prepared to release.

Seven pages of the list were dedicated to 123 children under 18. Among them are five 14 year olds, most of whom were arrested in July for throwing stones at soldiers.

Updated: November 24, 2023, 5:53 AM