Hamas said on Wednesday it agreed with Israel to a four-day ceasefire that will see the release of hostages in Gaza in exchange for Palestinians held in Israeli jails and allow humanitarian aid and fuel to enter the besieged enclave.
Hamas said in a statement it would release 50 women and children - from among the roughly 240 hostages captured by the militants in their surprise Oct. 7 attack in Israel - in exchange for the release of 150 Palestinian women and children.
It said the agreement, mediated by Qatar and Egypt, will allow hundreds of humanitarian, medical and fuel aid trucks to enter Gaza. All Israeli air activity in south Gaza will stop for four days, while air traffic in the north, the initial focus of Israel's ground assault, will stop from 10:00 a.m. to 04:00 p.m. local time, Hamas said.
"As we announce the striking of a truce agreement, we affirm that our fingers remain on the trigger, and our victorious fighters will remain on the lookout to defend our people and defeat the occupation," Hamas said.
A Qatari mediator said the country hoped the deal would lead to a permanent ceasefire.
Israel, in a separate statement confirming the deal, said the pause in fighting would be extended for another day for every additional 10 hostages released. Hamas did not mention any such arrangement.
"Israel's government is committed to return all the hostages home. Tonight, it approved the proposed deal as a first stage to achieving this goal," Israel's prime minister's office said.
Israeli bombardments have flattened swathes of Hamas-ruled Gaza, killed 13,300 people in the tiny densely populated enclave and left about two-thirds of its 2.3 million people homeless, according to authorities in Gaza.
Qatar's chief negotiator in ceasefire talks, Minister of State at the Foreign Ministry Mohammed Al-Khulaifi, told Reuters that the International Committee of the Red Cross would be working inside Gaza to faciliate the hostages' release.
"(It's) going to be an intensive period where we're going to be 24/7 in direct communication with the ICRC and the two parties making sure that we perfect the release of the hostages," Al-Khulaifi said.
He said that the truce means there would be "no attack whatsoever. No military movements, no expansion, nothing."
Al-Khulaifi added that Qatar hopes the deal "will be a seed to a bigger agreement and a permanent cease of fire. And that's our intention."
Al-Khulaifi said: "In our understanding it’s the light at the end of the tunnel. It is a positive development to this very difficult and complicated crisis that we're living.