PALESTINE: 22 November 2023, In a significant breakthrough, Hamas has agreed to release 50 hostages from Gaza in exchange for a four-day ceasefire with Israel and the release of 150 Palestinian prisoners. This development comes amidst growing international pressure for both sides to work towards a resolution in the ongoing conflict.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed the stance that the war will persist until Hamas, designated a terrorist organization by the US and the European Union, is dismantled. Despite this, the accord signals the first major pause in the conflict, initiated just over six weeks ago when the Iran-backed group attacked Israel.
During the four-day ceasefire, Hamas has committed to a cessation of all military operations in Gaza. Israel will halt airstrikes throughout the Gaza Strip and cease flying intelligence drones over the northern part of the territory for six hours a day, where most of its ground forces are stationed.
The agreement, pushed for by the US and its allies, is expected to commence on Thursday morning, allowing the Israeli public time to appeal in the courts against the release of prisoners. The US President, Joe Biden, played a role in mediating the talks, engaging with key figures such as Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani of Qatar and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Financial markets have shown minimal reaction to the agreement, with the Israeli shekel recovering losses and gold remaining steady. The war-risk premium for assets like gold and oil has diminished, reflecting optimism that the conflict will be contained to Gaza.
In the initial stage of the agreement, Hamas will release 50 women and children from Gaza, reciprocated by Israel releasing 150 women and Palestinians under the age of 19 from its jails. A potential second stage could see the ceasefire extended for the release of additional hostages.
As international pressure mounts on Israel to end its offensive in Gaza, an Arab delegation, including Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, has engaged in diplomatic talks in various countries. Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi warned of the escalating risk of a region-wide conflict if Israel persists in what many describe as a “massacring of Palestinians.”
While hopes for a truce as a basis for extended pauses and a comprehensive peace process are expressed by some, Prime Minister Netanyahu emphasizes that the war will continue until all objectives are achieved, including the elimination of Hamas and ensuring no threat to Israel from Gaza.
Ongoing heavy fighting in northern Gaza and Israel’s ground offensive into Gaza City further underline the complexities of the situation. The possibility of a more permanent arrangement remains uncertain as the region cautiously observes the unfolding developments.