Explainer-What are the details of the Israel-Hamas hostage deal? By Reuters

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© Reuters. Israeli tanks take position near a border with Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, November 22, 2023. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

(Reuters) -Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas started a four-day truce on Friday morning and a first group of hostages was released later that day.

WHAT ARE THE DETAILS OF THE DEAL?

Under the Israel-Hamas deal, the two sides agreed to a four-day truce so that 50 women and children under the age of 19 taken hostage could be freed in return for 150 Palestinian women and teenagers in Israeli detention.

The 50 hostages, among about 240 taken by Hamas in their Oct. 7 raid on Israel, are expected to be released in batches, probably about a dozen a day, during the four-day ceasefire.

Thirteen Israelis were released on Friday. Ten Thai citizens and a Philippine national – farm workers employed in southern Israel when they were seized – were freed under a separate agreement.

Those involved in the deal for the Israeli hostages have described the break in hostilities as “a humanitarian pause”. The pause will be extended by a day for each additional batch of 10 hostages released, Israel said in a statement.

Hamas said Israel had agreed to halt air traffic over the north of Gaza from 10 a.m. (0800 GMT) until 4 p.m. (1400 GMT) each day of the truce and to halt all air traffic over the south for the entire period. The group said Israel agreed not to attack or arrest anyone in Gaza, and people can move freely along Salah al-Din Street, the main road along which many Palestinians have fled northern Gaza where Israel launched its ground invasion.

Qatar’s chief negotiator in ceasefire talks, Minister of State at the Foreign Ministry Mohammed Al-Khulaifi, said that under the deal there would be “no attack whatsoever. No military movements, no expansion, nothing.”

WHEN DID THE DEAL START?

The truce between Israel and Hamas started on Friday morning, with a first batch of hostages released later that day.

A Qatari foreign ministry spokesperson said the lists of all civilians that would be released from Gaza had been agreed and Qatar hoped to negotiate a subsequent agreement to release additional hostages from Gaza by the fourth day of the truce.

HOW IS IT BEING IMPLEMENTED?

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is working in Gaza to facilitate the release of the hostages, Qatar said.

On Friday, hostages were transported through the Rafah crossing to Egypt, the only country apart from Israel to share a border with Gaza.

During the truce, trucks loaded with aid and fuel are expected to cross into Gaza, where 2.3 million people have been running out of food and many hospitals have shut down in part because they no longer have fuel for their generators.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society said 196 trucks of humanitarian aid arrived on Friday, the biggest such convoy into Gaza since the start of the war.

An operations room in Doha will monitor the truce and the release of hostages and has direct lines of communication with Israel, the Hamas political office in Doha and ICRC, Qatar’s foreign ministry said.

WHO ARE THE HOSTAGES BEING RELEASED?

The 13 Israeli hostages released by Hamas fighters on Friday included four young children and their mothers, and elderly women.

In addition to Israeli civilians and soldiers taken on Oct. 7, more than half the roughly 240 hostages are foreign and dual nationals from about 40 countries including Argentina, Britain, Chile, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Thailand and the U.S., Israel’s government has said. Not all the hostages taken on Oct. 7 were being held by Hamas fighters.

WHO ARE THE PALESTINIANS BEING FREED AND WHY WERE THEY HELD?

Thirty-nine Palestinian women and children, some convicted or detained on suspicion of weapon charges and violent offences, were released from Israeli jails. More than 100 more Palestinian prisoners are due to be released over the coming days and more may be freed if the truce is extended.

The Palestinian Prisoners Society said that as of Wednesday, 7,200 prisoners were being held by Israel, among them 88 women and 250 children 17 and under.

Most on a list to be freed are from the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Jerusalem and were held for incidents such as attempted stabbings, hurling stones at Israeli soldiers, making explosives, damaging property and having contacts with hostile organisations. None are accused of murder. Many were held under administrative detention, meaning they were held without trial.

WHO NEGOTIATED THE DEAL?

Qatar played a major mediation role. Hamas has a political office in Doha and the Qatari government has kept channels of communication open with Israel, even though unlike some other Gulf Arab states it has not normalised ties with Israel.

The U.S. also played a crucial role, with U.S. President Joe Biden holding calls with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Netanyahu in the weeks leading up to the deal.

Egypt, the first Arab state to sign a peace deal with Israel and which has long played a mediation role over the decades of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was also involved.

WHY HAS IT TAKEN SO LONG TO NEGOTIATE?

The deal was announced 46 days after the start of the war, one of the most fierce conflicts to erupt between the two sides. Hamas fighters killed 1,200 people when they launched their raid on Israel, the biggest single-day toll on Israeli soil since its creation in 1948, and more than 14,000 people have been killed in the Israeli air strikes and land incursion since then, the most by far of any recent war.

Amid such ferocious fighting, the large number of hostages and Israel’s stated determination to wipe out Hamas in Gaza, mediating even a temporary deal, like this one, proved far more challenging than in previous conflicts.

The initial negotiations for a deal between Israel and Hamas, both sworn enemies, began within days of the Oct. 7 attack but progress was slow. This was partly because communications between the warring sides had to go via Doha or Cairo and back for every detail hammered out, such as securing a full list from Hamas for those to be released, U.S. officials said.

Even with a deal in place, the ceasefire is temporary. Hamas has said throughout the truce its “fingers remain on the trigger”. Israel has said the conflict will continue until all the hostages are freed and Hamas is eliminated.

In 2014, when Israel last launched a major land invasion in Gaza, it took 49 days for both sides to implement a ceasefire deal, but that brought major fighting to an end for several years.

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