| 5 March 2024, Tuesday |

Israel and Hamas to start four-day truce on Friday – Qatar mediators

Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas will start a four-day truce on Friday morning with a first group of 13 Israeli women and child hostages released later that day, mediators in Qatar said.

The agreement – the first in a brutal, near seven-week-old war – would begin at 7 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) and involve a comprehensive ceasefire in north and south Gaza, Qatar’s foreign ministry said.

Aid would start flowing into Gaza, the first hostages would be freed at 4 p.m. and it was expected Palestinians would be released from Israeli jails, ministry spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari told reporters in the Qatari capital Doha.

“We all hope that this truce will lead to a chance to start a wider work to achieve a permanent truce,” Ansari added.

Hamas – who had been expected to declare a truce with Israel a day earlier on Thursday only for negotiations to drag on – confirmed on its Telegram channel that all hostilities from its forces would cease.

Israel had received an initial list of hostages to be freed from the Gaza Strip and was in touch with families, the Israeli prime minister’s office said in a statement that stopped short of confirming a truce had been agreed.

Israel launched its devastating war in Gaza after gunmen from Hamas burst across the border fence, killing 1,200 people and seizing about 240 hostages on Oct. 7, according to Israeli tallies.

Since then, more than 14,000 Gazans have been killed by Israeli bombardment, around 40% of them children, according to health authorities in the Hamas-ruled territory.

Israel has said the truce could last beyond the initial four days as long as the militants free at least 10 hostages per day. A Palestinian source has said a second wave of releases could see as many as 100 hostages go free by the end of November.

Both sides have said they will go back to fighting once the truce is over.

Qatar said an operations room in Doha would monitor the truce and the release of hostages, and had direct lines of communication with Israel, the Hamas political office in Doha and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

“The important thing is that we maintain a very clear line of communication with everybody through the operations room,” Qatar’s Ansari said.

Qatar hopes to negotiate a subsequent agreement to release additional hostages from Gaza by the fourth day of the truce, he added.

  • Reuters