US officials involved in the negotiations say the two sides are still working out “final logistical details.”
A senior Israeli official said that the hostage exchange deal between Israel and the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) will be postponed until Friday. The arrangement was scheduled to begin on Thursday, when Israeli forces are expected to halt operations for four days to allow aid into the blockaded Gaza Strip.
In a statement on Wednesday, Director of the Israeli National Security Council, Tzachi Hanegbi, announced the postponement, stressing that negotiations are still ongoing and that the deal is scheduled to be completed.
He added, “Communications regarding the release of our hostages are progressing and continuing continuously. He added, “The start of the release will take place in accordance with the original agreement between the two sides, and not before Friday.” Hanegbi said.
An unnamed Israeli official
quoted by Haaretz newspaper, added that the four-day cessation of Israeli military operations will also be delayed, indicating that air and ground strikes in Gaza will continue until the agreement is officially implemented.
US National Security Council spokeswoman Adrian Watson said that the one-day delay does not indicate that the deal is in danger, noting that it is… “It has been agreed upon and remains agreed upon.”
“Our view is that nothing should be left to chance when the hostages start to return home. Our primary goal is to ensure that they are returned home safely. This is on the right track and we hope that implementation will begin on Friday morning.” Watson said.
The Israeli government approved the hostage deal late Tuesday night. Under terms reached with the help of Qatari, Egyptian and American mediators, Hamas will release fifty Israeli hostages – all women and children – in exchange for the release of 150 Palestinian civilians currently held by Israel. The IDF will also halt its attacks on Gaza for four days, and halt operations for an additional day for every ten additional prisoners released by the Palestinian armed group.
According to Hamas, Israel also agreed to halt all drone flights over the southern part of Gaza during the four-day pause, and to restrict flights over the north at certain times of the day. The Israeli military urged Palestinian civilians to evacuate to the south for their safety, although human rights groups accused Israeli forces of continuing strikes in the evacuation zone, including UN shelters. Israel insists that it only attacks military targets.
Hamas took more than 200 people hostage during the movement’s attack on Israel on October 7, which killed about 1,200 people. Some of the prisoners are foreign nationals, including citizens of the United States, Thailand, Britain, France, Argentina, Germany, Chile, Spain and Portugal, according to Israeli officials.
For weeks, Israel has launched air strikes on Gaza and escalated its ground raids on the Strip, killing more than 12,000 Palestinians, including more than 5,000 children, according to health officials in the Hamas-controlled Palestinian enclave.