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Israeli official says talks continuing, hostage release won’t take place before Friday

by Ethan Kim
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Gaza ceasefire negotiations

The Israeli Prime Minister’s national security advisor, Tzachi Hanegbi, has announced that the anticipated exchange of hostages and prisoners between Israel and Hamas is now postponed until Friday at the earliest. This statement was made late on Wednesday, clarifying that discussions about the arrangement are ongoing. “The swap will commence as per the initial agreement, but not before Friday,” Hanegbi affirmed.

Originally, the exchange was scheduled as part of a ceasefire in the Gaza conflict, expected to start on Thursday. However, Hanegbi did not provide a reason for this postponement, and the exact start time of the ceasefire remains uncertain.

This news came unexpectedly after Israel and Hamas had agreed to a four-day ceasefire earlier on Wednesday. This ceasefire, a significant diplomatic milestone, would have led to the release of numerous hostages held by militants, along with Palestinian prisoners in Israel, and a substantial influx of aid into the beleaguered Gaza region.

The ceasefire was seen as a potential step towards de-escalating the ongoing conflict, sparked by Hamas’ deadly incursion into Israel on October 7. Now in its seventh week, the conflict has devastated large parts of Gaza, escalated violence in the West Bank, and raised concerns of a broader conflict in the Middle East.

Despite the ceasefire, Prime Minister Netanyahu, alongside his special war cabinet, announced at a press conference that the conflict would resume post-ceasefire. Israel’s objective remains the destruction of Hamas’ military capabilities and the rescue of all 240 hostages in Gaza.

Netanyahu emphasized the continuation of the conflict, stating, “The war is continuing. We will persist until our objectives are met.” He reported having conveyed this message to U.S. President Joe Biden and directed the Mossad to target Hamas’ exiled leaders.

While Israeli forces control much of northern Gaza and have reportedly dismantled tunnels and other Hamas infrastructure, officials admit that Hamas retains capabilities elsewhere. Netanyahu’s statement seemed to address public concerns that the ceasefire might lead to a premature halt in Israel’s offensive.

Just before the ceasefire, Israel expressed its determination to extend its ground offensive to southern Gaza, potentially impacting the already displaced population concentrated in that area.

In Gaza City, residents reported intensified fighting into Wednesday, with ongoing gunfire, artillery, and airstrikes. According to Nasser al-Sheikh, a local taking refuge in the city, “It seems they want to make gains before the truce.”

Palestinians mourned their relatives killed in the conflict, gathering in front of al Aqsa Hospital’s morgue in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, on Tuesday, November 21, 2023.

Despite the ongoing conflict, Palestinian militants kept firing rockets at Israel, fortunately without causing casualties.

The truce announcement concluded weeks of indirect and intermittent negotiations to free around 240 hostages captured by Hamas and other militants during their October 7 raid. Egypt, Qatar, and the United States played pivotal roles in mediating the deal.

In Tel Aviv, families and friends of the hostages held a demonstration, urging Prime Minister Netanyahu to secure their release.

Under the truce agreement, Hamas will release 50 hostages over four days, in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners released by Israel. The first to be freed will be women and children.

Israel stated that for every additional 10 hostages released by Hamas, the truce would be extended by a day. Hamas confirmed that numerous humanitarian convoys, including fuel supplies, would be allowed into Gaza.

Netanyahu also mentioned an arrangement for the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit the hostages, although the ICRC had not confirmed such an agreement at that time.

The ceasefire was set to begin at 10 a.m. local time (0800 GMT) on Thursday, according to Egypt’s state-run Qahera TV channel.

U.S. President Biden welcomed the deal, expressing support for an “extended pause.” Several countries, including Britain, France, China, and Russia, also endorsed the agreement.

Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani expressed hope that the deal might lead to a permanent ceasefire and substantive talks on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel’s Justice Ministry listed 300 prisoners eligible for release, primarily teenagers detained in the past year for minor offenses such as stone-throwing.

Despite the potential for a temporary pause in hostilities, the conflict’s origins date back to a large-scale incursion by Hamas militants into southern Israel, resulting in the deaths of at least 1,200 people, predominantly civilians, and the taking of hostages.

The subsequent Israeli airstrikes and ground invasion in Gaza have led to over 11,000 Palestinian deaths, as reported by the Health Ministry in the Hamas-controlled area. The ministry has not differentiated between civilian and militant casualties, with approximately two-thirds of the deceased identified as women and minors.

As of November 11, the ministry reported an inability to accurately count the dead due to the collapse of significant parts of the healthcare system, with the death toll having increased substantially since then. Additionally, approximately 2,700 individuals are missing, presumed

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Gaza ceasefire negotiations

What has caused the delay in the hostage-for-prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas?

The Israeli Prime Minister’s national security advisor, Tzachi Hanegbi, announced the delay of the planned swap until at least Friday. The exact reasons for the postponement were not provided in his statement. Ongoing discussions about the arrangement are cited as the cause, with the swap originally scheduled as part of a ceasefire in the Gaza conflict.

What is the significance of the ceasefire in the Gaza conflict?

The ceasefire, agreed upon by Israel and Hamas, is a major diplomatic breakthrough aimed at ending the ongoing conflict. It was expected to lead to the release of numerous hostages held by militants, along with Palestinian prisoners in Israel, and a substantial influx of aid into the besieged Gaza region. This ceasefire raised hopes of de-escalating the seven-week conflict that has devastated large parts of Gaza and escalated violence in the West Bank.

What are Israel’s objectives in the conflict with Hamas?

According to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s objectives are to destroy Hamas’ military capabilities and return all 240 hostages held captive in Gaza. He emphasized the continuation of the conflict until these goals are achieved, despite the announced ceasefire.

What does the truce agreement between Israel and Hamas entail?

The truce agreement involves Hamas releasing 50 hostages over a four-day period, in exchange for Israel releasing 150 Palestinian prisoners, mainly teenagers detained for minor offenses. The ceasefire deal also included provisions for humanitarian aid to enter Gaza and a potential extension of the truce for every additional 10 hostages released by Hamas.

How has the international community responded to the ceasefire agreement?

The international community, including the United States, Britain, France, China, and Russia, welcomed the ceasefire agreement. U.S. President Joe Biden expressed support for an “extended pause” in the conflict. The agreement is seen as a potential step towards a permanent ceasefire and substantive talks on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

More about Gaza ceasefire negotiations

  • Gaza conflict updates
  • Israel-Hamas ceasefire details
  • Humanitarian crisis in Gaza
  • Israeli-Palestinian conflict history
  • International response to Gaza ceasefire

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