Photo by Bashi Darshan/TPS on 21 November, 2023

Israel Approves Partial Prisoner Swap, Temporary Ceasefire With Hamas

Public By Pesach Benson • 22 November, 2023

Jerusalem, 22 November, 2023 (TPS) -- The Israeli Cabinet approved a partial Qatari-brokered prisoner swap and temporary ceasefire in the early hours of Wednesday morning, paving the way for the first Israeli hostages to return home possibly as soon as Thursday.

According to a statement issued by the government following the vote, “at least 50 hostages – women and children – will be released over four days, during which a pause in the fighting will be held. The release of every additional ten hostages will result in one additional day in the pause.”

The statement added, “The Government of Israel, the Israel Defense Forces and the security services will continue the war in order to return home all of the hostages, complete the elimination of Hamas and ensure that there will be no new threat to the State of Israel from Gaza.”

The government’s announcement did not specify the details of Israel’s commitment to release Palestinian prisoners. But according to Israeli media reports before the vote, Israel will release 150 Palestinian women and children from its prisons.

Bringing the hostages home is a “sacred priority and I am committed to it,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his remarks at the beginning of the all-night Cabinet meeting.

“There are stages in a war and there are stages in the return of abductees. The outline that will be presented to you has been improved so that it includes more abductees at a lower cost. We have a difficult decision before us, but it is the right decision,” Netanyahu said.

“All the security forces fully support it. They made it clear in their full professional assessment that the security of our forces will be guaranteed during the days of the ceasefire and that the intelligence effort will be maintained these days,” he added.

Netanyahu also stressed that Israel’s military efforts to topple Hamas would continue as soon as the ceasefire ends. The Iran-backed terror group has ruled Gaza since it violently overthrew the Palestinian Authority in 2007.

“We are at war, and we will continue the war,” Netanyahu said. “We will continue until we achieve all our goals.”

At least 1,200 people were killed in Hamas massacres in Israeli communities near the Gaza border on Oct. 7. Another 240 men, women, children, soldiers and foreigners were taken back to Gaza as hostages. Some people remain unaccounted for as Israeli authorities continue to identify bodies and search for human remains.

The government’s announcement did not specify the breakdown of votes by the 38 ministers of the Israeli Cabinet.

Other Aspects to the Deal

The International Red Cross will get access to all the remaining captives and provide medicine, Netanyahu’s office said before the vote.

During each day of the ceasefire, Israel will not operate drones over Gaza between the hours of 10 AM-4:00 PM while Hamas attempts to locate captives held by other terror groups. This point was backed by the military, Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), Mossad, reports said.

The ceasefire was said to hold Hamas responsible for the well-being and return of all the hostages, regardless of whether they are held by Hamas or by any of Gaza’s other terror groups.

The Palestinians freed by Israel will reportedly be allowed to return to their prior residences, including eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.

The estimated 1.5 million Palestinians who fled northern Gaza to the southern areas of the Strip will not be allowed to return to their homes to facilitate future Israeli military operations after the ceasefire.

Israel will allow 300 aid trucks to make daily deliveries to the Strip through Egypt’s Rafah crossing during the ceasefire.

A full list of the Palestinian prisoners slated for release will be published and Israelis will have 24 hours to file legal petitions to the Israeli Supreme Court against the release of specific prisoners.

Six Israeli hospitals have already indicated they are prepared to receive hostages and treat them in designated areas away from the media and other patients, as instructed by the Health Ministry.