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Israel, Hamas brace for 1st ceasefire after weeks of bloody conflict

Xinhua | Updated: 2023-11-24 10:08
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A picture taken from southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on Nov 20, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

GAZA/JERUSALEM - After more than six weeks of bloody conflict, Israel and Hamas are poised to implement the first truce as part of a swap deal, under which Hamas will free some hostages in exchange for some Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.

Under the deal reached on Wednesday under the mediation by Qatar, Egypt and the US, a four-day humanitarian ceasefire will start at 07:00 am local time (0500 GMT) on Friday.

Hamas, formally known as the Islamic Resistance Movement, said in a press statement that it would release about 13 hostages at 04:00 pm on Friday as the first stage of the deal.

Hamas, which has been ruling Gaza since 2007, will hand over the hostages to Egypt. In turn, Israel will release 150 Palestinians, including women and children, from the Israeli jails.

Israel is expected to stop all its military operations in the Gaza Strip as part of the four-day ceasefire. Meanwhile, at least 200 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid and medical supplies, including four fuel trucks, will be allowed into the Gaza Strip, Hamas explained.

The ceasefire will also facilitate the reopening of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt to allow the return of stranded Palestinians waiting in the Arish area, according to the Palestinian Embassy in Cairo.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office confirmed receiving an "initial list of names" of detainees set for release tomorrow.

The Israeli army said it was ready to implement the ceasefire, but warned Hamas that "even the slightest violation would result in a severe response."

The ceasefire was originally due to start on Thursday but was delayed as the two sides were finalizing the details of hostage release. Meanwhile, Israel continued its airstrikes on various areas of Gaza, resulting in more casualties and injuries.

Palestinian medical sources reported that 10 people were killed in Israeli shelling on a residential building in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood in Gaza City.

The Hamas-run health ministry said that six people, including three children, were killed on Thursday in Israeli strikes targeting two houses in the Shouat area in Rafah, southern Gaza.

In the meantime, the Al-Qassam Brigades, the Hamas military wing, and the Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad Movement, separately launched mortar shells at Israeli military positions inside and on the outskirts of Gaza.

The upcoming Israel-Hamas ceasefire will mark the first cessation of hostilities between both sides since Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel on Oct 7, during which 1,200 people were killed and over 200 hostages were taken to Gaza by Hamas militants. Israel retaliated by launching relentless airstrikes and a ground offensive in Gaza, which have killed over 14,000 Palestinians so far.

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