Israel-Hamas hostage deal faces delay until Friday

The initiation of a short-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, allowing for the release of hostages in Gaza, the liberation of Palestinians held by Israel, and the entry of more humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, has encountered a delay until Friday, according to an official statement from Israeli National Security Council Director Tzachi Hanegbi.

Hanegbi stated on Wednesday, “The contacts on the release of our hostages are advancing and continuing constantly. The start of the release will take place according to the original agreement between the sides, and not before Friday.”

Initially scheduled to commence Thursday morning, the release of hostages, coupled with a four-day ceasefire, is proceeding according to the original agreement.

As per the terms of the deal, Hamas will release 50 hostages, all women and children, over four days.

Three Palestinian prisoners detained by Israel will be freed for every Israeli hostage released by Hamas.

President Biden noted that three Americans, including a three-year-old girl, the only American child held by Hamas, are expected to be released, though it is not immediately clear if she will be part of the initial release.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Tuesday that “the release of every additional ten hostages will result in one additional day in the pause.”

If the initial phase of the hostage release proceeds as planned, approximately 20 more hostages will be released by Hamas, extending the pause in fighting.

Israel reported that about 240 hostages were seized by Hamas militants during their Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, resulting in 1,200 casualties.

Before Wednesday’s deal announcement, four hostages had been released, and an Israeli soldier was rescued by IDF troops in Gaza. Two hostages were found dead near Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza the previous week, according to Israeli authorities.