First Israeli hostages set to be freed in HOURS as four-day ceasefire begins after nearly 50 days of fighting

First Israeli hostages set to be freed in HOURS as four-day ceasefire begins after nearly 50 days of fighting

THE first Israeli hostages are set to be freed today as a four-day truce period between Israel and Hamas begins after nearly 50 days of fighting.

The ceasefire kicked off at 7am local time – with the first group of 13 women and children due to be released at 4pm.

APA four-day ceasefire has been agreed in the Israel-Hamas war[/caption]

EPASmoke rises following an Israeli bombardment on Gaza on November 23[/caption]

APMuch of the northern part of Gaza has been flattened with an estimated 1.5million civilians forced to flee south[/caption]

APIsraeli soldiers in Balata, a Palestinian refugee camp in Nablus, West Bank[/caption]

There has been no official statement from either side as to whether there has been a pause in the fighting – and sirens were heard just minutes into the truce period.

But Hamas have vowed to free at least 50 of the 240 hostages that were snatched on October 7 in return for 150 Palestinian prisoners.

Both sides will release women and children first and Israel confirmed it has the names of the hostages set to be freed.

Moments before the ceasefire began on Friday morning, the Israel Defence Forces insisted the truce “is temporary” – and urged people in Gaza not to move north.

”The war is not over yet,” IDF spokesperson Avichay Adraee said.

“The northern Gaza Strip is a dangerous war zone, and it is forbidden to move north.

“For your safety, you must remain in the humanitarian zone in the south.”

Israel has said the truce would be extended an extra day for every additional 10 hostages freed.

The truce-for-hostages deal was reached after weeks of intense negotiations – with Qatar, the United States and Egypt serving as mediators.

If it holds, it would mark the first significant break in fighting since Israel declared war on Hamas seven weeks ago.

The agreement has raised hopes of eventually winding down the war, which has levelled vast swaths of Gaza and stirred fears of an all-out war across the Middle East.

The first group of 13 women and children held by Hamas will be freed on Friday afternoon, according to Majed al-Ansari, the spokesman of the Qatari foreign ministry.

Three Palestinian prisoners – also women and children – are set to be released for every freed hostage.

Israel’s Justice Ministry published a list of 300 prisoners eligible to be released – including mainly teenagers detained over the past year for rock-throwing and other minor offences.

The agreement to release 50 Israeli hostages had previously been delayed over “last minute” details between Israel and Hamas.

Nomi Bar-Yaacov, an associate fellow at Chatham House and expert in the Middle East, said the temporary truce is a “pivotal moment”.

“I think the mediators worked painstakingly to try and get to this point, and we need to really grab it by its horns,” she told Sky News.

“This (truce) is an incredibly important first step, but it is very much a first step.

“There are lots of pitfalls in this agreement, lots of things can go wrong.”

Palestinian civilians have been left fleeing for their lives as Israel attempts to destroy Hamas after the terror group massacred 1,200 civilians on October 7.

Families living in Gaza have been caught in the brutal crossfire, with regular accusations that the terrorists are attempting to use them as “human shields”.

Much of the northern part of the strip has been turned into a devastated warzone – with ruined buildings, dwindling supplies and horrific suffering for Gaza’s people.

The Red Cross estimates that some 1.5million civilians have been forced to flee south amid the Israeli onslaught from land, air and sea.

Figures for the death toll remain unverified – but Hamas’ health officials claim more than 11,000 civilians, including more than 4,500 children have been killed.

Israel disputes these figures – and US President Joe Biden said he had “no confidence” in them.

But Benjamin Netanyahu admitted Israel has “not been successful” in reducing civilian casualties.

But he said the deaths must be blamed on Hamas – not Israel.

It comes as the UK pledged a further £30million of aid funding for Gaza.

Foreign secretary Lord David Cameron met with PM Netanyahu on Thursday and insisted the lull in the fighting was an “opportunity crucially to get hostages out and get aid into Gaza”.

He is due to meet aid agencies delivering UK-funded humanitarian support to the Gaza Strip.

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