PALESTINE: 22 November 2023, Amidst the intensifying conflict, a significant development unfolds as Hamas agrees to release 50 hostages from Gaza in exchange for a four-day ceasefire with Israel, coupled with the release of 150 Palestinian prisoners. The breakthrough, catalyzed by international pressure, marks a moment of hope in the prolonged Middle East conflict.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, quick to assert that the war will persist until the dismantling of Hamas, acknowledges the accord as the first major pause since the conflict erupted over six weeks ago. The Iran-backed group’s initial attack on Israel triggered a series of retaliatory measures, including airstrikes and a ground offensive.
During the agreed-upon four-day ceasefire, Hamas commits to a complete cessation of military operations in Gaza. Israel reciprocates by halting airstrikes across the Gaza Strip and suspending the use of intelligence drones over the northern territory for six hours daily, where the majority of its ground forces are stationed.
Scheduled to begin on Thursday morning, the ceasefire allows time for the Israeli public to appeal in courts against the release of prisoners. The US, spearheading diplomatic efforts, plays a crucial role in mediating talks between the involved parties, including Qatar, which hosts some of Hamas’s political leaders, and Egypt.
Financial markets exhibit minimal reaction to the anticipated agreement, with the Israeli shekel recovering losses, and gold maintaining stability. The war-risk premium for assets like gold and oil dissipates, reflecting a sense of optimism that the conflict may be contained within Gaza.
The phased release involves Hamas initially freeing 50 women and children from Gaza, reciprocated by Israel’s release of 150 women and Palestinians under the age of 19 from its jails. A potential second stage contemplates extending the ceasefire for every 10 additional hostages released.
As international pressure mounts on Israel to halt its offensive in Gaza, an Arab delegation, led by Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, engages in diplomatic talks. Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi warns of the escalating risk of a region-wide conflict if Israel continues what many view as a “massacring of Palestinians.”
While hopes for a truce serving as a basis for extended pauses and a comprehensive peace process are expressed, Prime Minister Netanyahu underscores that the war will persist until all objectives are met, including the elimination of Hamas and ensuring Gaza poses no threat to Israel.
Amid ongoing heavy fighting in northern Gaza and Israel’s ground offensive into Gaza City, the region cautiously observes the unfolding developments, with the possibility of a more permanent arrangement remaining uncertain.