The truce between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, reached after weeks of negotiations with the mediation of Qatar, Egypt and the United States, began this morning at 07:00 local time (06:00 in Spain), as announced yesterday the Qatari Government, and relative calm reigns this morning in the Gaza Strip, after seven weeks of incessant bombing.
About 15 minutes after the ceasefire came into force, the anti-aircraft alarms have sounded again in the Jewish communities near the border with Gaza, according to the Israeli Army, which, for its part, has not stopped attacking targets. in the Strip in the hours before the cessation of hostilities, like every night since the beginning of the offensive – in which more than 14,500 people have died, 70% women and children, according to data from the Gazan Government.
The agreement for a temporary ceasefire and the release of 50 Israeli hostages held by Hamas and other Palestinian militias, in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, was announced early Wednesday by Qatar and the two warring parties, which They presented it as an achievement and the result of their actions on the ground.
The Israeli Government confirmed that at least 50 hostages – women and children – will be released during the four-day pause in fighting and stated that “the release of every 10 additional hostages will mean one more day of truce”, opening the door to an extension of the cessation of hostilities if Hamas releases more hostages. The Al Qasam Brigades (armed wing of Hamas) have stated that “for every Zionist prisoner, three Palestinian prisoners will be released, including women and children.”
The Qatari Foreign Ministry reported yesterday that the first group of 13 hostages will be released at 4:00 p.m. local time (3:00 p.m. in Spain) and that they will be “all women and children.” The Foreign Ministry spokesman, Majed al Ansari, explained that the criterion for releasing those hostages first was “purely humanitarian” and that the objective is “to put women and children out of danger as quickly as possible.”
The spokesman said he could not offer details about the process of releasing the hostages or how they will leave Gaza “for security reasons.” “Through our operations room, where we work with the Red Cross and the parties to the conflict, we will ensure that all information is in real time and that everyone receives the correct information so that we can safely bring (the hostages) from one place to another,” he added.
According to Al Ansari, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) “has been designated to receive the hostages” and will be “an integral part” of that operation, just as it was the previous two times in which Hamas handed over the hostages. the neutral organization four women: an American mother and daughter, on October 20 and, a few days later, two elderly Israeli women.
However, the Qatari Government spokesperson did not reveal the number of Palestinian prisoners who will be released in exchange for the hostages, something that will also take place starting at 4:00 p.m. today. According to Hamas, the terms of the agreement establish that the prisoners be women and minors under 19 years of age, who have spent time in Israeli jails – which would mean that they cannot be those who have been arrested since the beginning of the current conflict, who already exceed the 3,000, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Society.
This is not the first time that Israel and Hamas have exchanged hostages and prisoners, although on this occasion the Palestinian group has not achieved the release of all the prisoners it wanted. The negotiated ratio is three Palestinian prisoners for one Israeli hostage, much less than the last major exchange, in which Hamas handed over soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for more than a thousand prisoners. The uniformed man was held captive for more than 5 years, from June 2006 to October 2011, and was returned to Israel, with the mediation of Egypt. Even before the exchange, Hamas had achieved the release of 20 Palestinian prisoners for proof of life of the young soldier, who was kidnapped near the Kerem Shalom border crossing.
Another of the fundamental aspects of the agreement between Hamas and Israel is the entry of humanitarian aid to Gaza, where the most basic goods are scarce after a month and a half of a strict Israeli blockade. Tel Aviv has allowed about 1,500 trucks of supplies to enter since mid-October through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt – up from the 10,000 trucks that used to enter monthly before the war. Since November 18, the Israeli authorities have lifted the blockade on fuel, essential for life in Gaza, and in these four days 130,000 liters of diesel should arrive in the Strip every day and four gas tankers daily, according to Cairo, which supervises the entry of aid from its border, has advanced.
According to the Qatari spokesperson, the aid “will enter when there is a period of calm that guarantees the safety of the humanitarian workers” who transport and distribute it, but admitted that “it will be a fraction of Gaza’s needs,” which have increased as The conflict has caused destruction, hunger and disease.
“A pause of a few days is not enough to address the immense needs after six weeks of fighting, bloodshed and destruction,” said the secretary general of the NGO Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland, hoping that the truce give way to “a lasting ceasefire.”
“Winter is coming and it would be a disaster to reactivate the conflict. Small shelters house many people, with little food and water, and increasing health difficulties. Children are traumatized and many face a future without their parents and siblings. It needs urgent and long-term help, and this can only be done with a lasting ceasefire,” explained Egaland.