Israel Agrees to Pause in Exchange for Hostage Release
Hamas gets rewarded for its crimes.
AP (“Qatar announces Israel-Hamas truce-for-hostages deal that would pause Gaza fighting, bring more aid“):
Qatar on Wednesday announced a truce-for-hostages deal between Israel and Hamas that would bring a four-day halt in fighting in a devastating six-week war, win freedom for dozens of hostages held in the Gaza Strip, and also lead to the release of dozens of Palestinian prisoners.
Qatar’s Foreign Ministry said it would announce within a day when the clock will start ticking on the truce, during which 50 hostages will be released in stages in exchange for what Hamas said would be 150 Palestinians prisoners held by Israel. Those freed by both sides will be women and children.
Humanitarian aid to besieged Gaza would also increase.
The announcement came hours after Israel’s Cabinet approved the deal. It capped weeks of indirect Qatari-led negotiations between Israel and Hamas, an Islamic militant group that has ruled Gaza for 16 years. The United States and Egypt were also involved in stop-and-go talks to free some of the roughly 240 hostages held by Hamas and other militants in Gaza.
In welcoming the deal, President Joe Biden emphasized that Netanyahu has committed to supporting an “extended pause” to make sure not only all hostages are released but that humanitarian assistance can be sent to Palestinians in Gaza.
Biden, who is in Nantucket, Massachusetts, for the Thanksgiving holiday, said the agreement should release some American hostages, and added: “I will not stop until they are all released.”
The Israeli government statement said that the truce would be extended an extra day for every additional 10 hostages released by Hamas.
A longer-term lull could lead to pressure, both international and domestic, for Israel to end its war without achieving its goal of destroying Hamas’ military capabilities.
Haaretz (“Israeli Cabinet Okays Deal for Release of 50 Hostages Held by Hamas, Temporary Cease-fire“) live blogs and includes this additional context:
“The deal has ultimately been structured to incentivize releases beyond 50,” a senior U.S. official said, adding it “is now structured for women and children in the first phase, but with an expectation for further releases. The clear aim is to bring all hostages home to their families.”
An Israeli official said the 50 hostages anticipated to be released will be Israeli or Israeli dual nationals, and foreign nationals are not anticipated to be part of this specific exchange.
According to a senior Israeli official, the plan will see Hamas release 30 kidnapped children, eight mothers and 12 more women during a four-day cease-fire.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stipulated that the agreement includes visits by the Red Cross to hostages who have not yet been released, as well as the supply of medicine.
Netanyahu also insisted that the cease-fire does not mean an end to the Israeli campaign in Gaza.
“We will not stop the war after the cease-fire,” he said. “There is nonsense out there suggesting that we will halt the war after the cease-fire to return the hostages. I would like to make it clear – we are at war, and we will continue the war until we achieve all our goals: eliminate Hamas, return all the hostages and missing, and guarantee that there will be no threat to Israel in Gaza.”
Times of Israel (“Israel set to approve Gaza hostage deal slated to see release of 50 Israelis“) adds:
[A]n Israeli government source clarified to reporters Tuesday evening that the deal is expected to see the release of 50 living Israeli citizens, mostly women and children, in groups of 12-13 people per day. In exchange Israel will release Palestinian women and minors from prison and return them to where they used to live, mostly the West Bank and East Jerusalem, pause fighting for four days and allow the entry of more fuel to the Strip.
The source said that all Israeli security agencies — the IDF, Shin Bet and Mossad — are in favor of the emerging deal. The official said that Netanyahu has insisted on certain elements being part of the deal, including the potential for the ongoing release of hostages even after the 4-5 day pause, a commitment by Hamas to identify and locate hostages being held by other terror groups in the Strip, and the refusal to release Palestinian prisoners who have been convicted of murder.
The source said Israel believes Hamas could potentially locate some 30 more Israeli mothers and children beyond the initial 50, and that the halt in fighting could be extended by an extra day for each group of 10 more Israeli hostages located and freed.
The release of innocents is, of course, good news. Alas, such a deal not only rewards hostage-taking but incentivizes more of it. Not only is Hamas getting a four-day respite from Israeli attacks, allowing it to regroup, but it gets back prisoners at a 3 to 1 ratio.
Still, according to the Times report, it’s not a complete cease-fire:
The deal, according to AFP, would see a complete pause of IDF operations on the ground in the Gaza Strip and an end to Israeli air operations over the territory, except in the north, where they would only halt for six hours daily, sources said, including an Israeli official.
While there will be six hours a day when the IDF will not use drones to gather intelligence on activity in the Strip, the IDF and Shin Bet will maintain the ability to continue gathering intelligence even during the pause in fighting, the Israeli source said.
That all but the most extremist ministers voted for the deal and that it has the support of the major Israeli security agencies allays my concerns considerably.