WRAPUP 2-Israeli government approves deal for release of 50 Gaza hostages, truce
To destroy Hamas, return all our hostages and ensure that no entity in Gaza can threaten Israel," he said in a recorded message at the start of the government meeting. A U.S. official briefed on the discussions said ahead of the deal that it would include the exchange of 150 Palestinian prisoners.
Israel's government voted on Wednesday to back a deal for Palestinian Hamas militants to free 50 women and children held as hostages in Gaza in exchange for a four-day pause in fighting, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
Officials from Qatar, which has been mediating negotiations, as well as the U.S., Israel and Hamas have for days been saying a deal was imminent. The accord will see the first truce of a war in which Israeli bombardments have flattened swathes of Hamas-ruled Gaza, killed 13,300 civilians in the tiny densely populated enclave and left about two-thirds of its 2.3 million people homeless, according to authorities in Gaza.
Before gathering with his full government, Netanyahu met on Tuesday with his war cabinet and wider national security cabinet over the deal. Hamas is believed to be holding more than 200 hostages, taken when its fighters surged into Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies. Ahead of the announcement of the deal, Netanyahu said the intervention of U.S. President Joe Biden had helped to improve the tentative agreement so that it included more hostages and fewer concessions.
But Netanyahu said Israel's broader mission had not changed. "We are at war and we will continue the war until we achieve all our goals. To destroy Hamas, return all our hostages and ensure that no entity in Gaza can threaten Israel," he said in a recorded message at the start of the government meeting.
A U.S. official briefed on the discussions said ahead of the deal that it would include the exchange of 150 Palestinian prisoners. The pause would also allow for humanitarian aid into Gaza.
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