Israeli government meeting to decide on Hamas hostage deal, short-term cease-fire in Gaza


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to convene Israel’s war cabinet and then his full government Tuesday amid progress in negotiations for a temporary cease-fire in the country’s war with the Palestinian group Hamas that’s expected to see some Israeli hostages released. 

The proposed deal will allow for an initial group of 50 hostages held by Hamas to be released in phases during windows of pause, CBS News has confirmed. The proposed deal, brokered by the U.S. and Qatar, will include a limited six-hour pause in fighting for four days, according to sources familiar with the agreement. 

During this time, aid will also be allowed into Gaza, with a total of 300 trucks carrying aid, including cooking oil for bakeries and fuel for hospitals, a source familiar told CBS News.

The deal will allow for the release of Palestinian prisoners — women and children — held in Israel detention centers, with three Palestinian prisoners released for each hostage held by Hamas, CBS News has confirmed. 

If the first phase goes as planned, roughly 20 more hostages will be released by Hamas and the pause in fighting extended. 

Children, of whom there are believed to be around 40 among the hostages in Gaza, were to be prioritized in the first wave of captives released by Hamas. The only American child taken by Hamas is a 3-year-old girl. 

Sources told CBS News that the deal was expected to see at least 75 hostages, and potentially even more, freed by Hamas in installments.

“We are making progress. I don’t think it’s worth saying too much, not at even this moment, but I hope there will be good news soon,” Netanyahu told reservists Tuesday, without providing further details.

Tel-Aviv-to-Jerusalem march by families of hostages held by Hamas
Families of hostages held by Hamas lead a march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, ending at a rally in front of the Knesset, on Nov. 18, 2023. Some 30,000 people joined the last portion of the 5-day march.

TAMAR SHEMESH/Middle East Images/AFP via Getty Images

The terms of the agreement have still not officially been confirmed by Israel. 

“In light of the developments regarding the release of our abductees — the Prime Minister will convene the War Cabinet at 18:00, the Political-Security Cabinet at 19:00 and the Government at 20:00,” Netanyahu’s office said in a social media post Tuesday. The 8 p.m. (local) timing of the last of those meetings, by the full Israeli government, translates to 1 p.m. Eastern. 

Israel’s Supreme Court would also need to sign off on any deal involving the release of Palestinian prisoners, but the court can essentially waive its approval and refer the decision back to the government.

Officials with knowledge of the negotiations, including President Biden, have said for days that an agreement looked increasingly close. 

“We’ve been working on this intensively for weeks, as you all know,” Mr. Biden said Tuesday at the White House. “We’re now very close, very close. We could bring some of these hostages home very soon. But I don’t want to get into the details of things because nothing is done until it’s done. And when we have more to say, we will, but things are looking good at the moment.”

The details of the long-sought hostage release agreement and short-term cease-fire were still coming to light Tuesday ahead of the Israeli government meetings.

A senior Hamas member told CBS News that the agreement  was for the group — long designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and Israel — to hand over 50 Israeli hostages in exchange for the release of 150 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons, or three Hamas prisoners freed for every abducted person released by Hamas. But there is no set cap on the number of prisoners to be released. 

A source familiar with the talks told CBS News that those numbers were not limits, and that the potential cease-fire could be extended if Hamas continues releasing Israeli hostages. More Palestinian prisoners could also be released, with officials suggesting a ratio of three prisoners to walk three in exchange for every Israeli hostage that comes home. 

The source said most of the Palestinian prisoners would be released to live in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, though some did come from Gaza.

Israel has said that Hamas militants took about 240 hostages during their Oct. 7 rampage across southern Israel, in which 1,200 people were killed. Only four hostages have been released by the group so far, and another, an Israeli soldier, was rescued by her fellow troops in Gaza. 

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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