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drilling down

Hamas set to give Israel list of first hostages tonight ahead of release tomorrow

At least 10 hostages are set to be released on Thursday, if Hamas keeps deal; children will be freed with their mothers

Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images

A Bring Them Home sign is displayed near a "Shabbat Dinner" table set up ahead of a special prayer service for the families of hostages in the Tel Aviv museum plaza, with 200 empty seats, representing the hostages and missing people on October 20, 2023, in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Hamas will give Israel a list of the first tranche of hostages it plans to free on Wednesday evening, ahead of their release on Thursday, a high-level diplomatic source said in a briefing.

The deal, which Israel’s cabinet authorized overnight Tuesday, states that Hamas will release 50 living Israeli hostages from Gaza in the next four days, with a minimum of 10 released per day. The sides will take a break from the fighting during those days. Israel will release three Palestinian women or minors held in prison on various terrorism charges, but not convicted of murder, for every Israeli the terrorist group frees.

According to the outline mediated by the U.S. and Qatar, Hamas will provide the International Red Cross with a list of Israeli hostages’ names in the evening, and Israel will send back its own list out of the 300 names it already published. The following morning, under the terms of the agreement, Hamas will bring the hostages to a yet-unspecified crossing out of Gaza, where Israel will check that they brought the correct individuals and fly the released hostages to hospitals. Only after that will the Palestinians be released.

If Hamas can locate more hostages in the subsequent days, Israel agreed to continue the pause in fighting for one day for every 10 hostages released, in the interest of “freeing as many hostages as fast as possible,” the source said. Israel estimates that Hamas can free 75-80 hostages in the coming days.

Hamas took some 40 children – defined as non-soldiers age 18 and under – and 13 mothers hostage in Gaza. Israel insisted that children and their mothers be released together. 

Israel agreed to the second stage of hostage releases in the hope that all the children and their mothers will be released, though Hamas currently says it does not know the location of all of the children. Israeli security officials have intelligence that Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and some civilians are holding hostages, confirming Hamas’ claim.

“In our estimation, Hamas does not have control over the whole situation – not of the hostages or the terrorists. They are making efforts,” the source said.

In addition, another senior diplomatic source said, the impression Israel received from negotiations was that, more than anything else, Hamas wants a break from the fighting. As such, it is dangling that option in front of them as an incentive to release more hostages.

Israel does not plan to notify relatives before the first group of hostages is freed because officials do not want to give the families “false hope” in case Hamas violates the agreement, the source said. If Hamas keeps to the deal, that may change.

There are an additional 40 women who are over 18 and not soldiers who are candidates to be released.

In initial rounds of negotiations, Hamas said it considered all women under age 54 to be soldiers and would not release them, a position rebuffed by Israel, which would not accept those terms. Hamas eventually relented and said it would only consider five female hostages currently serving in the IDF to be soldiers.

Of the roughly 240 Israelis who are either missing or held hostage, Israel’s official estimation is that the fate of eight — including six foreign nationals — is unknown. The government believes that most of the hostages are alive, but does not know how many.

A diplomatic source spoke to the uncertainty about the hostage release: “We know what is supposed to happen. We don’t really know what will be. You need two to tango.”

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