The Israeli government and Hamas agreed to a brief cease-fire in Gaza to allow for the release of 50 hostages captured during Hamas’s assault last month on Israel and the release of 150 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, Qatar said early Wednesday.
The cease-fire’s start will be announced within the next 24 hours, and it will last for at least four days, said the government of Qatar, which helped lead the negotiations. It added that the pause in fighting would also allow for more aid and fuel to reach civilians in Gaza.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced its approval of the deal in a WhatsApp message early Wednesday. If the multiday pause holds, it would be the longest halt in hostilities since Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks prompted Israel to begin its bombardment and subsequent ground invasion of Gaza.
Mr. Netanyahu’s office said women and children would be among the hostages released and that “the release of every 10 additional hostages will result in an additional day in the pause.”
“The Israeli government is committed to bringing all the hostages home,” the government added.
Less than an hour later, Hamas said in a statement on Telegram that it too had agreed to the deal.
“After many days of difficult and complex negotiations, we announce, with the help and blessing of God, that we have reached a humanitarian truce,” the Hamas statement read.
Hostages probably will not be released until Thursday at the earliest, to allow time for Israeli judges to review potential legal challenges to the prisoner release, according to Israeli officials.
Mohammed Al Khulaifi, a Qatari state minister who was a main negotiator on the talks, urged both sides to meet their obligations under the agreement and said he hoped it would pave the way for an end to the war.
“This agreement is the first time both sides have agreed to support the diplomatic track over continued fighting, which has inflicted so much pain and suffering on innocent civilians,” he said in a statement.
Until the cease-fire begins, the situation is likely to remain fluid. Hamas added in its statement that while it had agreed to a truce, “our hands will remain on the trigger,” and its fighters “will remain on the lookout to defend our people and to defeat the occupation and aggression.”
Hamas and its allies in Gaza captured about 240 hostages during their raid on southern Israel on Oct. 7, which also killed an estimated 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials. Israel has responded with thousands of airstrikes and by invading Gaza with ground forces, killing more than 12,000 people in the fighting, according to health officials in the Hamas-controlled territory.
Hamas said in its statement that Israel had also agreed to let in more aid supplies to Gaza, continue to allow civilians to evacuate northern Gaza and halt its flights over Gaza except for a six-hour window every day.
Israel and Hamas have been negotiating indirectly for weeks over the hostages. A deal had seemed within reach on a few occasions, only for the negotiations to stall or fall apart.
The Israeli government has vowed to destroy Hamas, but it has also come under domestic pressure to free the hostages. A brief cease-fire could allow Israel to achieve part of the latter objective before returning to the former.
Mr. Netanyahu said on Tuesday, before the deal was announced, that Israel’s campaign to prevent Hamas from controlling any part of Gaza would continue after the cease-fire.
“We are at war, and we’ll continue this war until we meet all our objectives,” Mr. Netanyahu said.
A pause in the fighting, however brief, could bring some measure of relief to Palestinian civilians in Gaza. More than one million Gazans have been displaced, and civilians are running perilously low on basic necessities like food and water. As part of its offensive against Hamas, Israel has cut off electricity to Gaza and blocked the delivery of most fuel, saying it could be diverted for the armed group’s use.
Edward Wong, Aaron Boxerman, Liam Stack, Johnatan Reiss and Maria Abi-Habib contributed reporting.