The latest developments from the Israel-Hamas war.
Fourteen hostages held in Gaza by Hamas will be released on Saturday in exchange for 42 Palestinian prisoners, on the second day of an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement which includes a truce in the Gaza Strip, according to Israeli officials.
The slated swap comes on the second day of a ceasefire that has allowed critical humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip and given civilians their first respite after seven weeks of war.
On the first day of the four-day ceasefire, Hamas released 24 of the about 240 hostages taken during its 7 October attack on Israel that triggered the war, while Israel freed 39 Palestinians from prison.
Those freed from captivity in Gaza were 13 Israelis, 10 Thai nationals and a citizen of the Philippines.
During the four days, Hamas is set to release at least 50 Israeli hostages – and Israel 150 Palestinian prisoners.
Israel has said the truce can be extended an extra day for every additional 10 hostages freed – something United States President Joe Biden said he hoped would come to pass.
The start of the truce on Friday morning brought the first quiet for 2.3 million Palestinians reeling and desperate from relentless Israeli bombardment that has killed thousands, driven three-quarters of the population from their homes and levelled residential areas. Rocket fire from Gaza militants into Israel went silent as well.
The United Nations said the pause enabled it to scale up the delivery of food, water, and medicine to the largest volume since the resumption of humanitarian aid convoys on 21 October.
It was also able to deliver 129,000 litres (34,078 gallons) of fuel – just over 10% of the daily pre-war volume – as well as cooking gas, a first time since the war began.
For the first time in over a month, aid reached northern Gaza, the focus of Israel’s ground offensive. A UN convoy delivered flour to two facilities sheltering people displaced by fighting.
The UN said it and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society were also able to evacuate 40 patients and family members from a hospital in Gaza City, where much of the fighting has taken place, to a hospital in Khan Younis.
The relief brought by the ceasefire has been tempered, however, for both sides – among Israelis by the fact that not all hostages will be freed and among Palestinians by the brevity of the pause. The short truce leaves Gaza mired in humanitarian crisis and under the threat that fighting could soon resume.
Israel has vowed to resume its massive offensive once the truce ends. That has clouded hopes that the deal could eventually help wind down the conflict, which has fueled a surge of violence in the occupied West Bank and stirred fears of a wider conflagration across the Middle East.