After forty-six days of fighting and bombing of unprecedented intensity, the Israeli government and Hamas reached an agreement providing for the release of 50 hostages held by the Islamist movement in the Gaza Strip in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, a four-day truce and the delivery of humanitarian aid to the enclave.

According to Israeli authorities, Hamas kidnapped some 240 people during the October 7 attack in southern Israel, which left 1,200 people dead and provoked a violent response from the Israeli army in Gaza.

At the end of several crisis meetings, Tuesday evening, the services of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that 50 women and children would be released over four days during which the fighting would be interrupted.

For each ten additional hostages who are released, the truce will be extended by one day, they specified in a press release. “The Israeli government is committed to returning all hostages home. This evening he approved the proposed agreement as a first step towards achieving this objective,” added the Prime Minister’s Office. Hamas, for its part, announced that the 50 hostages would be released in exchange for the release of 150 Palestinian women and children detained in Israel.

Detailing the terms of the agreement, Qatar’s foreign affairs spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari added that “every day a certain number of hostages will be released, and this number is expected to reach 50 by the fourth truce day. The agreement does not provide for the release of kidnapped soldiers.

Israel released a list of 300 Palestinian prisoners eligible for release (33 women, 123 adolescents under the age of 18, and 144 young people around the age of 18), including 150 in the initial phase of the agreement reached with the Hamas. Among them are 49 Hamas members. According to the Israeli authorities, other exchanges could take place as part of an extension of the truce, with a total of 100 hostages for 300 Palestinian prisoners.

The head of Israel’s National Security Council, Tzachi Hanegbi, said Thursday that the release of the hostages would take place “not before Friday” and that negotiations “continue continuously.” There will be “no pause” in the fighting on Thursday, an Israeli official immediately told Agence France-Presse.

As soon as the conclusion of the discussions was announced, Israeli media reported that the first hostages would not be released before Thursday, with implementation of the agreement only taking place after twenty-four hours to give time to Israeli citizens who wish to do so can appeal to the Supreme Court to try to prevent the release of certain Palestinian detainees.

The start of the truce should be formally announced “in the next twenty-four hours”, said Qatar, mediator of the agreement with the United States and Egypt. According to Hamas, it also plans the passage of several hundred trucks of humanitarian and medical aid as well as fuel into the Gaza Strip.

Israel has pledged not to carry out attacks or make any arrests in the enclave during the truce, the Islamist movement added. “The deal should bring additional American hostages home and I will not stop until they are all released,” US President Joe Biden said in a statement.

Three Americans, including a 3-year-old girl whose parents were killed on October 7, are expected to be among the hostages to be released, according to a member of the US administration. More than half of the detainees held by Hamas have dual nationality from around forty countries, including France.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Catherine Colonna, “hoped”, Wednesday morning on France Inter, that French people would be among those released, while calling for caution. “Each party must keep their part of the contract,” she insisted.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, also welcomed the conclusion of the agreement and hoped that it would allow “a humanitarian surge” in Gaza. Russia also expressed its satisfaction.

According to the Hamas-led Gaza Strip government, more than 13,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli bombardments since October 7, which have displaced two-thirds of the 2.3 million residents, according to UN agencies.

Mr. Netanyahu assured that the goal of “eradicating” Hamas had not changed. “We are at war and we will continue to be at war until we achieve all of our objectives. Destroy Hamas, [ensure] the return of all our hostages and ensure that no entity in Gaza can threaten Israel,” the head of government said in a message broadcast at the start of the Israeli government meeting, during which the agreement was validated.

“As we announce a truce agreement, we affirm that our fingers remain on the trigger and that our victorious fighters will remain vigilant to defend our people and defeat the occupier,” Hamas warned.

According to Mohamed Al-Khoulaifi, Qatar’s chief negotiator, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) must contribute to the release of the hostages. During the truce, he promised, there will be “no attacks of any kind. No military movement, no progress, nothing. It will be an intense period during which we will be in direct communication twenty-four hours a day with the ICRC and both parties in order to ensure the smooth running of the release of the hostages,” he continued, hoping that this agreement paves the way for a permanent ceasefire. “That’s our intention,” the diplomat added.

The President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, also welcomed the conclusion of the agreement and called for a “comprehensive resolution of the crises with Israel”.