Second prisoner swap planned: Palestinian official

November 23, 2023 by AAP
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The Israel-Hamas deal agreed for the freeing of 50 hostages held in Gaza in exchange for the release of 150 Palestinian prisoners will be repeated later this month, a Palestinian official says.

Israeli military forces inside the Gaza Strip on Nov. 14, 2023. Photo by IDF Spokesperson

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that would mean a total release of 100 of the about 240 people Hamas seized during its October 7 killing spree in southern Israel.

In return, Israel would free a total of 300 Palestinian prisoners in the two exchanges – a number corresponding to a list of women and teenage male inmates it published on Wednesday as candidates.

A part of the current deal, which is due to begin on Thursday morning, Israel will pause its almost seven-week-old Gaza war to enable both the staggered recovery of the 50 hostages – all of them women or children – and entry of aid for Palestinians.

“The second batch will follow the first batch. They would need four or five days to organise it will involve 50 Israeli (hostages) in return for 150 Palestinian (prisoners),” the Palestinian official said.

He said the prisoners would include elderly, women and children and the conditions will be the same.

Israeli officials did not immediately confirm this.

But Israel has offered, in a cabinet statement, to extend the pause by a day for every additional 10 hostages handed over by Hamas.

The first truce in the brutal near seven-week-old war, reached after mediation by Qatar, was hailed around the world as a sign of progress that could ease the suffering of Gaza’s civilians and bring more Israeli hostages home.

“Israel’s government is committed to return all the hostages home. Tonight, it approved the proposed deal as a first stage to achieving this goal,” the government said on Tuesday.

Hamas said the initial 50 hostages would be released in exchange for 150 Palestinian women and children held in Israeli jails.

Hundreds of trucks of humanitarian, medical and fuel supplies would enter Gaza, while Israel would halt all air sorties over southern Gaza and maintain a daily six-hour daytime no-fly window in the north, it said.

Israel has placed Gaza under siege and relentless bombardment since the Hamas attack which killed 1200 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli tallies.

Since then, more than 14,000 Gazans have been killed, about 40 per cent of them children, according to medical officials in the Hamas-ruled territory.

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

Qatar hopes the deal “will be a seed to a bigger agreement and a permanent cease of fire. And that’s our intention,” he said.

Pending the start of the truce there was no let-up in fighting.

As morning broke, smoke from explosions could be seen rising above northern Gaza in live Reuters video from across the fence.

Riyad al-Maliki, foreign minister in the Palestinian Authority government based in the West Bank, said an entire extended family had been killed on Wednesday in Jabalia on Gaza’s northern edge.

“Only this morning, from the Qadoura family in Jabalia, 52 people have been wiped out completely, killed,” he said.

“I have the list of the names, 52 of them, they were wiped out completely from grandfather to grandchildren.”

Israel’s military released footage of soldiers shooting in narrow alleyways and said it had carried out airstrikes.

Its “forces continue to operate within the Strip’s territory to destroy terrorist infrastructure, eliminate terrorists and locate weaponry,” it said.

An Egyptian security source said mediators sought a start time of 10am on Thursday for the truce although this was still awaiting confirmation from the Israeli side, with Hamas seeking a few hours from the start to begin freeing hostages.

A representative for Israel’s defence ministry said the truce would likely take hold “sometime tomorrow”.

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