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 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, reports reuters.
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.
A statement by the Prime Minister’s Office said 50 women and children will be released over four days, during which there will be a pause in fighting.
For every additional 10 hostages released, the pause would be extended by another day, it said, without mentioning the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange.
A U.S. official briefed on the discussions had said ahead of the deal that it would include the exchange of 150 Palestinian prisoners.
“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,” said the statement, released after hours of deliberation that were closed to the press.
Israel’s Ynet reported that all but three ministers in the far-right Jewish Power party voted in favour of the deal.
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._Agencies.