A Gaza hostage release deal was back on track on Saturday night after a row over aid supplies to the north of the besieged enclave was resolved following mediation by Qatar and Egypt. A Palestinian official familiar with the diplomacy said Hamas would continue with the four-day truce agreed with Israel, the first break in fighting in seven weeks of war.
After a delay, obstacles to the release of prisoners were overcome through Qatari-Egyptian contacts with both sides, and 39 Palestinian civilians will be released tonight, while 13 Israeli hostages will leave Gaza in addition to 7 foreigners,” Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesman Majed Al Ansari said on social media.
The armed wing of Hamas said earlier it was delaying Saturday’s scheduled second round of hostage releases until Israel met conditions including committing to let aid trucks into northern Gaza.
Hamas spokesperson Osama Hamdan said only 65 of 340 aid trucks that had entered Gaza since Friday had reached northern Gaza, which was “less than half of what Israel agreed on.”
Al-Qassam Brigades also said Israel had failed to respect the terms of the Palestinian prisoner releases. Qadura Fares, the Palestinian commissioner for prisoners, said Israel had not released detainees by seniority, as was expected.
Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter, a member of Israel’s security cabinet, told Channel 13 News that Israel was “abiding by the deal” with Hamas that Qatar had mediated.
Israel has said 50 trucks with food, water, shelter equipment and medical supplies had deployed to northern Gaza under UN supervision, the first significant aid delivery there since the start of the war.
The row over the truce dented hopes of a smooth second day of hostage and prisoner releases after 13 Israeli women and children were freed by Hamas on Friday. Some 39 Palestinian women and teenagers were released from Israeli jails.
Israeli army spokesperson Olivier Rafowicz told French television Israel was strictly honouring the terms of the truce, and said the military had carried out no attacks or offensive operations in Gaza on Saturday.
“There is a delay…in the release of the hostages. I do not want in any way to get into what the armed wing of the terrorist group Hamas is saying,” Rafowicz told BFM TV. “This situation is obviously being managed at the highest level in Israel.”
Hamas announced on Saturday its appreciation for Qatari- and Egyptian-led efforts at ensuring the continuation of a temporary truce agreement between the group and Israel that began on Friday.
Hamas said in a statement that the Egyptian and Qatari parties had confirmed Israel’s commitment to all the terms and conditions of the agreement.
Earlier on Saturday, Hamas had decided to delay a second round of hostage releases as part of the truce deal until Israel committed to letting aid trucks enter northern Gaza.
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