Holy Land: First Israeli hostages to be released Friday afternoon

The pause in the fighting in the Holy Land, initially due to start on Thursday, has been moved to Friday, as fighting continues.

By Francesca Merlo

A temporary cease-fire agreement between Hamas and Israel – which includes a four day pause to fighting – has been moved to Friday. The deal, brokered by Qatar, the US and Egypt was announced on Wednesday and aims to facilitate the release of dozens of people taken hostage during Hamas’ raid on Israel and bring of form of respite to the exhausted Palestinians in Gaza.

Qatar has announced that the deal will take effect on Friday, a day later than originally planned. Under its terms, Palestinian prisoners held by Israel will also be freed.

Hostages to be released at 4pm

The spokesman for the foreign ministry of Qatar, Majid al-Ansari, has confirmed that Qatar is expecting some Palestinian prisoners to be freed by Israel, “as a result of the release of hostages at around 4pm”.

But he said he could not disclose information about how many prisoners would be released.

He said all the hostages to be released on Friday are women and children, and that hostages from the same families would be put together in the groups to be released.

Qatar is expecting aid to begin going into Gaza “as soon as possible” from the start of the truce at 7am. “It will be a fraction of the need in Gaza,” he said.

In fact, whilst families of hostages are brought a glimmer of hope by the ceasefire, the UN’s relief fund for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) warns that a four day ceasefire, in which aid would be able to enter the enclave, is simply not enough.

Hezbollah

Meanwhile, the Lebanese militant group, Hezbollah fired more than 50 rockets at military posts in northern Israel, just one day after an Israeli airstrike on a home in southern Lebanon killed five of the group’s senior fighters.

The waves of rockets sent over the border represented one of the most intense bombardments since Hezbollah started attacking Israeli posts in the country’s north at the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war on 8 October.

Hezbollah claims that by escalating its activities along the Israel-Lebanon border, it is relieving the strain on the Gaza Strip where Israel’s intensive airstrikes, ground operations, and naval assaults have resulted in over 13,000 Palestinian casualties and extensive devastation within the blockaded territory.