Israel-Hamas ceasefire, a major diplomatic step
Subhasish Mitra (Wide Angle)
The temporary ceasefire agreed upon by Israel and Hamas is the first major diplomatic breakthrough and pause in fighting since the war began after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7.
The four-day ceasefire paved the way for the release of 50 hostages held by the militant group in Gaza in exchange for 150 Palestinian detainees and the entry of humanitarian aid into the besieged territory.
The diplomatic breakthrough promised some relief for the 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza who have endured weeks of Israeli bombardment, as well as families in Israel fearful for the fate of their loved ones taken captive during Hamas' Oct 7 attack that triggered the war.
The deal was announced amid a strong assertion from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the "war will continue until all our goals are achieved".
A statement on behalf of the government, however, said the Israeli government is committed to the return of all abductees home.
The deal was mediated by Qatar, Egypt and the United States by a 35-3 vote by the Israeli Cabinet with ministers from the extreme right-wing Otzma Yehudit party of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir voting against. The Cabinet meeting was preceded by the meetings of the War Cabinet and the Security Cabinet.
Israel has released a list of 300 Palestinians that could be released under the deal struck between Israel and Hamas. The list, posted on Israel's justice ministry website, includes the names, ages and offences of those eligible.
A statement from Qatar's foreign ministry described the talks that produced the agreement as a mediation effort by Egypt, the US and Qatar for a "humanitarian pause".
Netanyahu has, however, insisted before entering the Cabinet meeting that the deal was a result of the pressure Hamas felt due to Israel's military campaign and asserted that the war would continue until the goals set are achieved - to eliminate Hamas, secure the release of all the hostages, and ensure that there's no more threat from Gaza to Israel's security.
"We are at war, and the war will continue until all our goals are achieved," the Israeli PM said. "The return of hostages is a top, sacred priority and I am committed to it," Netanyahu emphasised adding, "Before us is a difficult decision but the right one. We will not rest until everyone is returned. The war has stages and the return of the hostages will have stages," he argued.
Israel's ground offensive in Gaza is a key factor in "dialling up the pressure" on Hamas to negotiate and release some of the 240 hostages taken from Israel on October 7. "Without the pressure and the continued pressure [on Hamas], there will be no chance to secure the release of the next groups of hostages.
Israel began attacking Gaza after Hamas fighters crossed the border on 7 October, killing 1,200 people and taking more than 200 others hostage.
Gaza's Hamas-run health ministry says more than 14,000 people - including more than 5,000 children - have been killed in Israel's campaign.
Nations around the globe welcomed the announcement that Israel and Hamas reached a deal to free hostages and pause fighting and bombardment in Gaza.
US President Joe Biden thanked the leaders of Qatar and Egypt for their "critical leadership" in reaching the deal. "I am extraordinarily gratified that some of these brave souls... will be reunited with their families once this deal is fully implemented," Biden said, referring to the hostages.
British foreign secretary David Cameron called the deal "a crucial step towards providing relief to the families of the hostages and addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza".
German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said the "breakthrough" agreement "must be used to bring vital aid to people in Gaza". Beijing hoped "that it will help ease the plight of the humanitarian crisis, de-escalate the conflict and ease tensions", said foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning.
The Kremlin called the deal "the first good news from Gaza in a very long time". Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi welcomed the deal and noted "the continuation of the Egyptian efforts to reach final and sustainable solutions... to guarantee the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people".