Truce in the balance then the agreement on the hostages holds: 13 Israelis and 39 Palestinians freed

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By John

The truce between Israel and Hamas was likely to last just under 24 hours but, thanks to the mediation of Qatar and Egypt, the exchange between Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners was confirmed in the evening. Thirteen Israelis – and according to initial information also 7 foreigners – will leave the Strip in the evening in exchange for 39 Palestinians 50 days after the October 7 massacre. A turning point after 5 hours of uncertainty, and anguish for the relatives, in which it seemed that the agreement was on the verge of falling apart already on the second day. The 13 Israeli hostages, almost all from Kibbutz Beeri – one of the most affected last October 7 – will pass into the hands of the Red Cross and Israel will start the procedures for the release of the 39 Palestinian prisoners who are in Ofer prison.

It was Hamas who delayed the release, justifying it with the fact that “Israel has not implemented the elements of the agreement”. An accusation completely rejected by Israel which threatened “the resumption of fighting from midnight tonight if the hostages are not freed”. The halt to the agreement came from the al Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, which targeted the failure to comply with “the agreement on the entry of humanitarian trucks into the northern Gaza Strip and the failure to comply with the agreed standards for the release of prisoners.”

Hamas’s objection, according to what was learned, referred to the names and the temporal order with which Israel scheduled the release of Palestinian prisoners. Israeli political sources, quoted by the media, responded that «there has been no violation of the agreements. Just as Hamas decides at each stage who to release from its hostage list, we decide which Palestinian security detainees are to be released in exchange.”

According to security sources, 61 trucks of humanitarian aid out of the 200 that passed today, including fuel and gas tankers, were transferred to the north of the Gaza Strip. Hamas responded that “340 trucks have entered Gaza since last Friday, 65 of which have reached the north of the Strip. A number that is less than half of what Israel has agreed upon.”

For the Palestinian Red Crescent, humanitarian aid was successfully delivered to the city of Gaza today and to the northern governorate of Gaza in the largest convoy” since the beginning of the war in the Strip. Indirect communication channels between the parties immediately moved to resolve the stalemate. Qatar – today its officials arrived by plane in Israel – has moved its pawns trying to reach a mediation “as soon as possible”.

And Egypt also announced that it had made “intense efforts” to complete the second tranche of the exchange of Palestinian hostages and detainees. US President Joe Biden also did his part, speaking with Qatar, to break the deadlock. Earlier in the day, before everything shut down, the scenario and signals had appeared even better than expected. Egyptian sources revealed that further negotiations were underway to extend the truce in place until Monday by one or more days. And they had received “positive indications” from both sides.

The effort is to encourage an exchange of hostages and detainees as large as possible until reaching, as mentioned from the first moment, 100 hostages freed (out of 230 held in Gaza) for 300 Palestinian detainees, while the current agreement predicts 50 for 150. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who entered Gaza today in the part under Israeli control, warned that the military will remain in the Strip until all the hostages are returned and any future negotiations with Hamas are conducted during the fighting. If the weapons are silent in Gaza, in the West Bank, considered the ‘internal front of the war, the clashes with the Israeli army continue. South of Jenin, two Palestinians were killed, the Wafa agency reported.