Updated Nov 23, 2023 - World

Pause in Gaza fighting, hostage release to begin Friday, Qatar says

Photographs of some of those taken hostage by Hamas during their recent attacks are seen in Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

People look at the posters of those abducted and taken to Gaza during the Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

The four-day pause in fighting between Hamas and Israel in Gaza will begin at 7 am local time on Friday, with the first group of hostages set to be released later that day, a Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on Thursday.

Driving the news: The announcement of the timeline for the Qatar-mediated deal came after a brief delay in the implementation of the agreement, which will see Hamas free at least 50 Israeli women and children in exchange for a multi-day pause in the fighting in Gaza and the release of 150 Palestinian women and children held in Israeli prisons.

  • But Qatar received the lists of the first groups of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners who will be released, paving the way for the implementation of the deal to begin on Friday. The first group of hostages is expected to be released at 4 pm local time.
  • Hamas' military wing also confirmed the pause in fighting is set to begin on Friday at 7 am local time.
  • The Israeli Prime Minister's Office confirmed that Israel has received a list of hostages who will be released on Friday. "The list is being verified and the families are being notified," the office said.

Details: The initial 50 hostages are expected to be released in four groups over the four-day pause in what has been described as the first phase of the deal, according to Israeli officials who briefed reporters.

  • The Israeli officials also expressed cautious optimism that Hamas will agree to release additional hostages in exchange for Israel extending the pause in fighting. Under the agreement, Israel will extend the pause for every 10 additional hostages released.
  • "We know Hamas are holding at least 70-80 women and children and that we can get all of them," one of the officials said.

According to Israeli estimates, 40 children under the age of 19 and 13 mothers were abducted and brought to Gaza during the Oct. 7 terrorist attack.

  • The Israeli officials said they believe other factions in Gaza are holding at least some of the children, but they are ready to give Hamas incentives to locate all of them.
  • More than 240 people, including several Americans, were abducted during the Oct. 7 attack. Four hostages, including two Americans, have since been released, one has been rescued and two others were found dead.

What they're saying: "We welcome the announcement from Qatar and expect to see a number of hostages coming out of Gaza tomorrow," White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement.

What to watch: During the pause in fighting, Israel is expected to allow hundreds of trucks carrying humanitarian aid into Gaza each day.

  • It's also expected to allow more fuel into the enclave. Health workers and aid groups have said the aid and fuel are desperately needed as the health and humanitarian situation in Gaza continues to significantly deteriorate.
  • UN aid chief Martin Griffiths told CNN on Tuesday that the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is the worst he has seen during his tenure at the UN.
  • "Nobody goes to school in Gaza, nobody knows what their future is. Hospitals have become places of war, not of curing. No, I don't think I've seen anything like this before," Griffiths said.

Humanitarian groups, including the Norwegian Refugee Council, welcomed the expected pause in fighting but called on the parties to use it to pave the way for a permanent ceasefire.

  • "A pause of a few days is not enough time to address the immense needs after six weeks of fighting, bloodshed, and destruction," NRC secretary general Jan Egeland said in a statement on Wednesday.
  • The Israeli government on Tuesday said, however, that it "will continue the war in order to bring all the hostages back, finish destroying Hamas and make sure there can be no threat to Israel from Gaza."

Editor's note: This story and headline have been updated with additional details from the Qatari Foreign Ministry.

Go deeper