Netanyahu with photos of the hostages
Netanyahu with photos of the hostagesAmos Ben Gershom/GPO

A diplomatic official detailed this evening (Wednesday) how the release of a group of Hamas hostages will be handled when the first releases take place tomorrow.

The official stated that in the first stage, at least, the families of the hostages will not receive advance notice of the release of their loved ones.

"We don't want to inform the families beforehand because we don't trust Hamas. To cause distress to the family would be the worst thing. As soon as the people are in our hands, we will inform the families and bring them to the meeting point at the hospital. The first day will be a model for us regarding how to proceed," said the source.

"In the evening, we will receive the names. The next morning, Hamas will begin gathering the people to be released. The procedure is that they bring them to the Red Cross for transit. As soon as there is physical identification according to the lists, permission will be given to transfer their people back and fly our hostages to the hospitals," he added.

One complication that arose was that Hamas demanded that the majority of the women being held hostage be classified as "soldiers" regardless of whether or not they are civilians. This made securing their release more difficult, as Hamas would like to claim the right to hold IDF soldiers captive as prisoners of war. According to Israeli estimates, there are 40 children in the hands of Hamas and 58 women, five of whom are believed to be soldiers.

"We abolished the distinctions. Children are considered minors up to the age of 19, and every woman is included in the calculation - unless she was actually a soldier on the day of the kidnapping. Initially, Hamas claimed that every woman under the age of 54 was a soldier, and we refused to allow that," he said.

The source stated that the Israeli assessment is that under the current plan, more than 50 hostages - women and children - will eventually be released. "In the beginning, the idea of '50' was so sacred. President Biden was brought in as a lever of pressure on Qatar. The head of the CIA was sent by the American president and explained to the Emir of Qatar the importance of this. Hamas claimed that they could not commit to more, so the agreement also includes an outline that could allow the releases to continue. We believe that we will not stop at 50."

"We realized that what interests Hamas more than anything else, more than the fuel, the trucks, is the length of the ceasefire. They demanded a month, went down to two weeks, ten days, seven days and finally settled for four. The fact that we gave them an 'incentive' may allow the release of more hostages." said the source.

Israel believes that Hamas may release up to 80 hostages in total. "Right now, Hamas has about 75 or 80 hostages, and we know that there are all kinds of others in the hands of the Popular Front, Islamic Jihad, and also in the hands of civilians. It is true that Hamas controls the fate of more than two hundred hostages - but there is also logic in the statement that it takes a certain amount of time to gather everyone. However, there is a specific number we are talking about and they know to bring that number during this ceasefire," the source said.

The source also referred to the agreement according to which mothers and children will not be separated from each other during the release and admitted that with respect to fathers who are being held hostage along with their wives and children, there is no such agreement. Therefore there is the possibility of a situation where children will be released and their fathers will remain in the hands of Hamas.

On the number of hostages who will be released each day, he noted that "the minimum is ten for the first, second and third days and the rest [will be released on] the fourth day. I don't know what the internal division will be. They know that less than ten is a violation of the agreement. The Qataris, the Egyptians, and the Americans are guarantors of this agreement."

The names of the terrorists who will be released in exchange for the hostages will be determined by Israel unilaterally just as Hamas will determine the identity of the Israeli hostages it will release. Israel believes that most of the hostages held by Hamas are still alive.

The source stated that the security establishment believes that the resumption of fighting after the release of the hostages will increase the pressure for more deals. "We believe that the continued pressure exerted on Hamas will bring the other side to carry out more deals. We will continue to fight. This is a respite for the sake of returning the captives, and we will use the time we have in this respite to continue and prepare for the resumption of the conflict."