Gaza Hostage Deal Resumes After Delay; Diplomatic Pushes Yield Progress

By Yoni Weiss

A Red Cross vehicle, as part of a convoy carrying hostages abducted by Hamas, arrives at the Rafah border, as seen from southern Gaza Strip, late Motzoei Shabbos. (REUTERS)

Efforts to proceed with the second phase of the Gaza hostage deal resumed after a significant delay, as Hamas initially announced a hold on the agreement on Motzoei Shabbos. Confirming significant headway, IDF Spokesperson Daniel Hagari noted substantial strides toward the release of the 13 hostages by day’s end.

Amid the delay, concerns arose regarding the passage of humanitarian aid through the Egyptian crossing at Rafah and the release of agreed-upon Palestinian prisoners based on seniority, issues raised by the Hamas.

Israeli sources confirmed that Israel had met all its obligations and called Hamas’s claims a “publicity stunt,” promising that if the hostages are not released by midnight, Israel would renew ground operations in the Gaza Strip.

Diplomatic intervention involving Qatar, Egypt, and Israel worked tirelessly to salvage the agreement. Qatar, particularly, exerted substantial pressure behind the scenes, urging Hamas to adhere to the planned ceasefire. The Qatari Foreign Ministry confirmed the forthcoming release of 39 Palestinians and seven foreign nationals as part of the exchange for the 13 hostages.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, engaging in a situation assessment with top security officials, affirmed efforts to ensure the smooth progression of the deal’s second phase.

As the delay unfolded, families of the 13 hostages, already notified, were prepared to receive their loved ones. Additionally, individuals from Kibbutz Be’eri — women and children — were expected to be among those returning, prompting families to head to medical facilities across Israel in anticipation of their arrival.

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