Negotiations between Israel and Hamas continued through the night, with Israeli officials indicating that hostage release from Gaza and a cessation of fighting would be delayed.
The four-day suspension of military operations and hostage release in Gaza was originally scheduled to begin Thursday morning.
The head of Israel’s National Security Council said the disengagement would not begin “before Friday,” underscoring the weakness of the complex agreement with Hamas announced earlier this week.
There was further fighting between Hamas militants and Israeli forces in northern Gaza on Wednesday night.
Qatar, which is acting as a mediator along with Egypt, said on Thursday that the implementation date for the ceasefire agreement would be announced “within hours.”
US President Joe Biden met with key figures including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the leaders of Qatar and Egypt. The White House emphasized the need for all parts of the agreement to be implemented.
Israel and Hamas have agreed to release 50 women and children held in Gaza by Iranian-backed groups. Israel will then release 150 women and Palestinians under the age of 19 from Israeli prisons. U.S. officials said the hostages leaving Gaza would include three Americans.
Netanyahu has said the war will continue until Hamas is destroyed as an organization, but the agreement marks the first major lull in fighting since the conflict erupted nearly six weeks ago. right.
Israeli media reported that the ceasefire would only begin after the Red Cross accepted hostages from Hamas, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.
“Negotiations regarding the release of the hostages are making progress and are constantly continuing,” said Tsashi Hanegbi, head of Israel’s National Security Council.
Under the deal, more aid is expected to flow into Hamas-controlled Gaza to help alleviate what the United Nations and Palestinian officials say is a humanitarian disaster. In the second phase, the cessation of fighting could be extended by an additional day for each additional 10 hostages freed.
The agreement falls short of demands from many countries to extend the ceasefire. Israel and the United States reject such a move, saying it would allow Hamas to rearm.
The deal comes at a time when Biden is under pressure from many in his own party to halt Israeli attacks that began in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that killed 1,200 people and took 240 hostages. is a big gamble. More than 14,500 people have since been killed in the Palestinian enclave, including 6,000 children, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.
Qatar said a “humanitarian moratorium” could stop the war and lead to a “just peace process.”
But Prime Minister Netanyahu has made it clear that Israel will not give up.
“We are fully committed to destroying Hamas, recovering all the hostages, and ensuring that Gaza is no longer a threat to Israel,” he said.
He also directed Israel’s foreign intelligence agency Mossad to “act against Hamas leaders wherever they are located.” Defense Minister Yoav Galant said Hamas leaders were “living on borrowed time” and that the fight against them would “reach the entire planet.”
A four-day ceasefire was agreed between Israel and Hamas.
— Bloomberg (@business) November 22, 2023
Diplomatic efforts to contain the conflict continued. An Arab delegation led by Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat Prince Faisal bin Farhan visited London on Wednesday before heading to Paris for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron. British Foreign Secretary David Cameron will arrive in Israel on Thursday and will meet with Israeli and Palestinian officials, Sky News reported.
Iran’s top diplomat meets Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders in Beirut
Events elsewhere in the region over the past 24 hours have highlighted the risk of spillover.
Four people were killed and one injured in an Israeli airstrike on a house in the village of Beit Yafun in northern Lebanon, Lebanese state media said.
The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which regularly launches rocket attacks on Israel, said five of its members were killed, including the son of the bloc’s parliament speaker, Al-Manar TV reported. Details have not been disclosed, and it is unclear whether it is the same incident.
The United States said Wednesday that one of its destroyers in the Red Sea shot down several drones launched from Yemen. The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have vowed to continue attacking Israel until the war ends.
It is unclear whether groups such as Hezbollah and the Houthis will also abide by the ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi warned that the longer Israel proceeds with its attack on Gaza, the greater the risk of wider conflict and terrorist attacks against Western assets.
He said there was a concern that “once you get to a certain point, there’s no going back.”
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)