Nearly seven weeks into the war, Israel and Hamas have agreed on a deal that would see the return of 150 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails in exchange for the release of at least 50 women and children held in Gaza, during a four-day pause in fighting.
The Palestinian prisoners concerned are women and children, Hamas said Wednesday, adding that the agreement also involves the entry of hundreds of trucks carrying aid relief, medical supplies and fuel to all parts of the besieged territory.
The Israeli government on Wednesday published a list of 300 Palestinian prisoners for possible release, as Israel is offering a potential second phase of exchanges.
The list includes the ages of the prisoners, and the charges on which they are being held – throwing stones and “harming regional security” are among the most common.
Others are listed as detained for supporting illegal terror organizations, illegal weapons charges, incitement, and at least two accusations of attempted murder. Some of the people are listed as being members of Hamas and other Islamic militant groups, but many of the prisoners are not listed as belonging to any organization.
Around 8,300 Palestinian prisoners are currently held in Israeli jails, said Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian Commission for Detainees and Ex-Prisoners’ Affairs.
Most of the prisoners are men, Fares said, adding that there are also about 85 women and 350 children in detention.
Israel has stepped up its arrests since Hamas’ attacks on October 7. Up to 2,070 arrests were documented in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem in that month alone, according to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society, a non-governmental organization dedicated to addressing the concerns of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons. That figure includes 145 children and 55 women.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh claimed to Reuters last week that Israel had been ramping up arrests ahead of a hostage deal. “Israel is preparing for an exchange of prisoners, and they are arresting as many people as they can simply because they are preparing for such a deal,” Shtayyeh said.
Wednesday’s diplomatic breakthrough offers a glimmer of hope for the families of Palestinian prisoners, as well as those of Israeli hostages.
Hamas is holding 236 hostages in Gaza, including foreign nationals from 26 countries, according to the latest figures from the Israeli military. The abductions took place on October 7, when Hamas militants launched their brutal attack on Israel, killing at least 1,200 people.
Four hostages have been freed so far – two American women and two Israeli women. An Israeli soldier who was abducted by Hamas was rescued by Israeli forces, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said.
While the first phase of the deal will include the release of 150 prisoners in four stages over four days, the Israeli Cabinet Secretariat said, more Palestinians could potentially be released from the list of 300 detainees, in exchange for at least 10 Israeli abductees being handed over to Israeli security forces each day.
Israel said there would be a lull in the fighting during those four days under the deal.
This is a developing story and will be updated.