The government overnight Tuesday approved the deal for the release of some of the hostages being held in Gaza in exchange for the release of Palestinian Arab terrorists who are imprisoned in Israel and at least four days of a ceasefire.
The Religious Zionist Party voted in favor of the deal after a consultation among the members of the faction. The ministers from Otzma Yehudit voted against the deal.
According to the outline, 50 living Israelis will be released in several batches throughout the four days of the ceasefire.
Every day, 12 to 13 hostages will be released. For every 10 additional Israeli hostages who are released - another day of a pause in the fighting will be given.Israeli officials believe that in addition to the 50 hostages, Hamas can release another 30 Israelis.
Accordingly, 140 terrorists will also be released in several phases. The IDF will continue to encircle the northern Gaza Strip. In addition, fuel will only enter Gaza during the days of the ceasefire. The IDF and the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) will continue intelligence gathering operations.
Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar has pledged to return 30 out of 40 children. About 8 out of 13 mothers will be returned, and an additional 12 elderly women will be returned as well.
The Israeli government said in an official statement on Tuesday night: “The Israeli government is committed to bringing home all the hostages. Tonight, the government approved the outline for the first stage of achieving this goal, according to which at least 50 hostages - women and children - will be released over 4 days, during which there will be a lull in the fighting. The release of every ten additional hostages will result in an additional day of respite.”
“The Israeli government, the IDF and the security forces will continue the war in order to return all the hostages, complete the elimination of Hamas and ensure that there is no renewed threat from Gaza to the State of Israel,” the statement added.
Hamas commented on the deal and said, "After difficult and complex negotiations that lasted for many days, we announce that we have reached an agreement on a humanitarian truce for four days as a result of intensive efforts by Qatar and Egypt."
During the discussion, a confrontation broke out between ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Benny Gantz, after Smotrich expressed concern that Hamas would extend the truce beyond what was agreed upon and announce that it had found more hostages.
Gantz replied to Smotrich: "What kind of question is this? We are telling you that this is the deal. What, do you trust us less than Sinwar?"
Meanwhile, Culture Minister Miki Zohar criticized National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, and asked why Otzma Yehudit gathered for a faction meeting before the cabinet meeting. Ben Gvir replied to Zohar: "Because we saw everything in the media before the meeting, so it is very good that we held a meeting. We are not united. This is a that could cause damage for years to come and that will harm us badly."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the start of the meeting, and made clear to the ministers that the deal would include visits by the Red Cross to those hostages who will not be released and will include the supply of medicine. The ministers were told that the first day of the ceasefire will be on Thursday and the first batch of hostages will be released that day.
The Prime Minister also promised the ministers that at the end of the ceasefire and the release of the hostages - the fighting against Hamas in Gaza will be resumed with all its might.
“We are at war – and will continue the war. We will continue the war until we achieve all of our war aims: To eliminate Hamas, return all of our hostages and our missing, and ensure that there is no element in Gaza that threatens Israel,” said Netanyahu.
He recalled, “Yesterday evening, I met, together with the members of the War Cabinet, members of the hostages' families. I listened closely to their plight. With shaking voices, sometimes in tears, they described the nightmare they are in. I told the dear families: 'Returning our hostages is a sacred and supreme task – and I am obligated to it together with my colleagues. As Maimonides says: There is no greater precept than redeeming captives.”
“We will not relent in our efforts until we redeem them all, until we return them all, the boys and girls, the mothers and fathers, the young men and women, the elderly men and women, the male and female soldiers, all of them,” he stated, adding, “In war there are stages, and in returning the hostages there are stages, but we will not relent until we achieve the absolute victory and until we bring them all back. This is my sacred duty, of all of us.”
“In recent days, I have spoken with our friend, US President Joe Biden and I requested his intervention in order to improve the outline that will be presented to you. Indeed, it has been improved to include more hostages and at a lower cost. These talks have been productive. President Biden joined in the effort and I thank him for it. Before you this evening, now, is a difficult decision but it is the correct decision. All of the security agencies fully support it; they have made it completely clear in their professional assessment, that the security of our forces will be ensured during the pause and that the intelligence effort will be maintained in those days. They have made it clear that not only will the war effort not be harmed, it will enable the IDF to prepare for the continuation of the fighting,” said Netanyahu.
The Prime Minister reiterated, “The war is continuing and the war will continue until we achieve all of our goals – Eliminating Hamas, returning all of our hostages and assuring that the day after Hamas, Gaza will no longer threaten Israel, that there will be no other element that supports terrorism, educates its children for terrorism and threatens the State of Israel. With G-d's help, we will do it and we will succeed – and together we will win.”
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said, “In the coming hours and days we will be required to make important decisions. The focused, professional and precise operations of the IDF will lead to the results that we hope to achieve in the near future.”
“As a result of the decision taken about a month ago to intensify our ground operations, to enter [Gaza] and to increase the pressure on Hamas, there is now a chance to create a plan that will lead to the release of hostages. I view the release of hostages first and foremost as an issue related to values – a moral issue, an issue that points to the [unwritten] agreement between the State, the government and its citizens. All members of the cabinet, all the members of the IDF, ISA, and Mossad, everyone who is working on the issue of the hostages and missing persons - is dedicating all their time, soul and energy to this issue, day and night,” he added.
“IDF soldiers risk their lives every day, and we see the results. For me, the release of the hostages is of immense value. We all see the pictures, the videos, the people [around us] and think about the [kidnapped] children, soldiers, adults, and Holocaust survivors- and we all understand how important this is.”
“At the same time, without continuing [military] pressure, there will be no chance of bringing [home] additional hostages. Therefore, upon my request and that of the defense establishment, the government has included in its decision, the unequivocal demand that immediately after we have exhausted this phase, all operations by the IDF, ISA and all the security forces, will continue in full force - first in order to defeat Hamas, and secondly, in order to create the necessary conditions to bring home additional hostages,” said the Minister of Defense.
“I would like to take this opportunity together with all members of the government, to express my appreciation, and the appreciation I am sure we share, for all the security forces that are fighting in this war - the IDF, ISA, and Mossad, and every single person working on the issue of the hostages and missing persons. We have a great establishment, and a large part of its strength is in the unity that is demonstrated by this forum, in the government, in the cabinet and in the war cabinet. Thank you very much,” he concluded.