Last Updated: November 22, 2023, 07:14 IST
Israeli Cabinet has approved a cease-fire with Hamas that includes the release of some 50 hostages held by militants, local media said on Wednesday. This comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet that accepting a deal for the release of hostages taken in the Hamas attacks of October 7 was “a difficult decision but it’s a right decision”.
“The government approved the broad outlines of the first stage of an agreement under which at least 50 kidnapped people — women and children — will be released over four days during which there will be a lull in the fighting,” according to an official statement sent to AFP by the prime minister’s office.
Before the vote on the deal, Netanyahu told his cabinet on Tuesday that US President Joe Biden had helped “improve the framework being laid out before you… to include more hostages at a lower price”. “The entire security establishment fully supports it.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this evening, at the start of the Government meeting:While this meeting is to discuss the return of our hostages, I would like to start with something that should be self-evident: We are at war – and will continue the war. pic.twitter.com/YaICV89yEU
— Prime Minister of Israel (@IsraeliPM) November 21, 2023
‘I listened to their plight’
The hostages’ families have demanded that Israel should insist on the return of all those being held, and the Religious Zionist party, which is part of Netanyahu’s coalition government, has voiced opposition to the deal, denouncing it as “bad” for Israel’s security, for the hostages and soldiers.
“Yesterday evening, I met, together with the members of the War Cabinet, members of the hostages’ families. I listened closely to their plight. With shaking voices, sometimes in tears, they described the nightmare they are in,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.
Multiple news agencies said the tentative agreement would include a five-day truce, comprised of a complete ceasefire on the ground and an end to Israeli air operations over Gaza, except in the north, where they would only halt for six hours daily.
Under the deal, between 50 and 100 Israeli and dual-national civilians would be released in exchange for some 300 Palestinian women and children currently held in Israeli jails. “It will allow the IDF to prepare for a continuation of the fight — the war is ongoing, and it will continue until we achieve all of our objectives: destroying Hamas and bringing back all the hostages,” Netanyahu said.
(With agency inputs)