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Israel and Hamas agree to a cease-fire deal to free some hostages, Qatar says


After six weeks of war, Hamas and Israel have agreed to a four-day pause in the fighting. The initial stage of the deal will have Hamas release 50 people taken hostage during the group's bloody attack on southern Israel October 7, and Israel has agreed to release 150 Palestinian prisoners and detainees held in Israeli jails. The agreement comes after weeks of complex negotiations mediated by Qatar, Egypt and the United States. But we still don't know what's happened to many of the hostages, and the war is not over.

NPR's Daniel Estrin is with us now from Tel Aviv to tell us more. Good morning, Daniel.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Good morning, Michel.

MARTIN: So tell us about the outlines of the deal.

ESTRIN: Israel and Hamas have both published their versions of this deal, which has been on the table and been negotiated now for weeks. The first stage of the deal is that there will be four days of a pause in fighting. And during that time, there will be four different hostage exchanges. So about 50 Israelis will be released in total during those days, about 10 at a time. At the same time, 150 Palestinian prisoners and detainees will be released from Israeli jails. Those prisoner releases will be spread out among the four stages. And we're talking about women and minors from both sides.

Now, during those four days that the war is paused, Hamas says that Israel has promised to halt its flyovers and drones over northern Gaza, where there have been the most intense fighting. And that will take place for just several hours a day. And we understand that that is to allow Hamas to try to locate all of the hostages. Not all of the hostages being held in Gaza are being held by Hamas. Some are being held by other militant factions or even by private Palestinian citizens. And during those four days of a pause in fighting, Israel has also committed to allowing in more humanitarian supplies to Gaza.

Now, part two of the deal is Israel offering an incentive to Hamas. It's saying if Hamas releases an additional 50 Israeli hostages, then Israel will agree to release another 150 Palestinians. For every 10 Israelis released, according to this offer, there will be another 24 hours pause in the hostilities. But this entire deal expires in 10 days, according to Israel, and after which the war will resume.

MARTIN: Do we have a sense of when this pause is actually going to start?

ESTRIN: It's not going to start until probably Thursday morning at the earliest. And that is until - you know, the Israeli law requires this period of time for objections, a 24-hour period where Israelis in the public can review the list of Palestinian prisoners and detainees who are slated for release. That list has already been published. And that 24-hour period allows Israelis to petition against their release. They can go to the Supreme Court. We've already heard some groups representing Israeli victims of Palestinian attacks saying that they will oppose. But historically, the Supreme Court doesn't block these kinds of deals, and there is major support in the Israeli public for this release. So bottom line, until this kicks in as early as tomorrow morning, the war continues.

MARTIN: How are Israelis and Palestinians taking in this news? I might imagine there might be different views.

ESTRIN: Really mixed emotions, Michel. I spoke to an Israeli comedy writer, Hen Avigdori, whose wife and daughter are in Gaza. Here's what he said.

HEN AVIGDORI: I am calm. I am calm because I know that there is hope. But I'm also calm because I know that the hope can be shattered at any moment.

ESTRIN: I also spoke to a Palestinian father of a detainee, Yousef Afghani (ph). His daughter, Aisha (ph), is in Israeli jail. He said this.

YOUSEF AFGHANI: (Non-English language spoken).

ESTRIN: He said he was very happy for his daughter's release but that he is against what Hamas did, capturing Israeli civilians, to lead to this moment.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Daniel Estrin in Tel Aviv. Daniel, thank you.

ESTRIN: You're very welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.