People walk past graffiti calling for the return of the hostages kidnapped during the Oct. 7 Ha ...

Qatar says Gaza cease-fire will begin Friday morning | Nation and World

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DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — A four-day cease-fire in Gaza between Israel and Hamas will begin Friday morning, Qatar said, a day later than originally announced, as negotiators worked out final details of the deal, which is to lead to the release of dozens of hostages held by terrorists and Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.

The diplomatic breakthrough promised some relief for families in Israel fearful for the fate of their loved ones taken captive during Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attack — in which at least 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed — that triggered the war.

The cease-fire was originally set to begin Thursday morning, but it appeared to hit a snag the night before when Israel’s national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, announced a one-day delay.

On Thursday, Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed al-Ansari announced the cease-fire will start at 7 a.m. local time Friday (9 p.m. PST Thursday.)

He said the two sides had exchanged lists of those to be released, and the first group of 13 women and children held by Hamas would be freed Friday afternoon. He did not say how many Palestinian prisoners would be freed, but officials have said three would be freed for every hostage.

Increased aid for Palestinians will start to enter Gaza “as soon as possible,” al-Ansari said.

Netanyahu says truce won’t end war

The truce agreement raised hopes of eventually winding down the war, which has leveled vast swaths of Gaza, fueled a surge of violence in the West Bank and stirred fears of a wider conflagration across the Middle East.

Air-raid sirens sounded across northern Israel on Thursday as Hezbollah said it fired 48 Katyusha rockets from southern Lebanon. The barrage came after an Israeli strike killed five Hezbollah fighters, including the son of the head of the group’s parliamentary bloc.

The Israeli military said it was striking the sources of the launches. Israel and Hezbollah, which fought a monthlong war in 2006, have repeatedly traded fire across the border since the war in Gaza broke out.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue the war after the truce expires to destroy Hamas’ military capabilities, end its 16-year rule in Gaza and return all the estimated 240 captives held in Gaza by Hamas and other terrorist groups.

“We will continue it until we achieve all our goals,” Netanyahu said, adding that he had delivered the same message in a phone call to President Joe Biden. Washington has provided extensive military and diplomatic support to Israel since the start of the war.

Israeli troops hold much of northern Gaza and say they have dismantled tunnels and much of Hamas’ infrastructure there. Israeli forces Wednesday revealed what they said was a major Hamas hideout in a tunnel beneath Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital.

The military said Thursday it detained Shifa’s director, Mohammed Abu Selmia, for questioning over his involvement in what it called “extensive” Hamas activities in the hospital.

Gaza’s Health Ministry called on international bodies to intervene and said it would no longer cooperate with the World Health Organization in evacuating hospitals.

Earlier Thursday, Israel ordered the full evacuation of the Indonesian Hospital in the north, Dr. Munir al-Boursh, a Health Ministry official inside the facility told Al Jazeera.

Israeli military spokesman Col. Richard Hecht said combat operations would continue “until we are given the order to hold our fire.”

Israeli troops have surrounded the Jabaliya refugee camp and called on any residents inside to evacuate during a three-hour window Thursday, he said. The military has said it is pursuing Hamas fighters in Jabaliya.

Israel has threatened to extend its invasion to southern Gaza, where most of the territory’s population is now located.

Hostages to be freed in stages

Under the truce deal, 50 hostages are supposed to be freed in stages, in exchange for the release of what Hamas said would be 150 Palestinian prisoners. Women and children would be released first, and Israel said the truce would be extended an extra day for every additional 10 hostages freed.

The return of hostages could lift spirits in Israel, where their plight has gripped the country. Families of the hostages have staged mass demonstrations to pressure the government to bring them home. Netanyahu’s office said it notified the families of hostages listed for release Friday.

Hamas said 200 trucks a day will enter Gaza carrying aid. Qatar said the aid will include fuel, but has given no details on quantities.

Israel cut off all imports at the start of the war, except for a trickle of food, water and medical supplies allowed in from Egypt.

Israel’s Justice Ministry published a list of 300 prisoners eligible to be released, mainly teenagers detained over the past year for rock-throwing and other minor offenses.

The war erupted when several thousand Hamas terrorists stormed into southern Israel, killing at least 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking scores of hostages, including babies, women and older adults, as well as soldiers, for whom Hamas is expected to demand a large number of high-profile prisoners.

Rising toll in Gaza

Gaza’s Health Ministry on Thursday resumed its detailed count of Palestinian casualties from the war, saying over 13,300 have been killed.

The figures do not include updated numbers from hospitals in the north, where services and communication largely broke down earlier this month. The ministry says some 6,000 people have been reported missing, feared buried under rubble.

The ministry does not differentiate between civilians and terrorists in its death tolls. Israel says it has killed thousands of Hamas fighters.

The ministry had stopped publishing casualty counts as of Nov. 11, saying it had lost the ability to do so because of the collapse of the health sector in the north.

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Chehayeb reported from Beirut. Associated Press reporters Najib Jobain in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Melanie Lidman in Jerusalem and Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed.



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