Following days of speculation, the Israeli cabinet last night approved a deal with Hamas for the release of 50 Israeli hostages – 30 children and 20 women. Currently there are some 236 people, including soldiers and civilians, held in Gaza.
In exchange for the gradual release of hostages, Israel has agreed to four days of ceasefire and a release of 150 Palestinian prisoners. Israel will also allow fuel into Gaza and an increase in humanitarian aid.
Not all of the hostages from October 7th are being held by Hamas. Reports suggested that some were taken by Palestinian civilians or other terrorists, and it is not clear if Hamas will be able to locate them. For every further ten hostages Hamas releases, another day of ceasefire will be added and more Palestinian prisoners will be released by Israel.
For the families of the abducted, there will be relief mixed with anxiety about whether their loved ones will be among those released. For seven long, terrifying, weeks, their loved ones have been held captive by a terrorist organisation that has mercilessly and sadistically raped, murdered and burnt some 1,200 Israelis.
When the war started, the Israeli government prioritised military accomplishments against Hamas over negotiating the release of hostages. Hamas, too, was unwilling to negotiate in the early days of the conflict. Over the course of the war two things have changed to make this deal possible.
The first is that Hamas has struggled to fight the Israeli Defence Forces. The IDF has been targeting Hamas’s infrastructure, tunnels, weapons caches and individuals from the ground, air and sea. Despite launching a successful surprise attack on 7 October, Hamas’s capabilities are no match for the IDF.