Thousands of people have died and thousands more have been injured since the militant group Hamas launched an unprecedented surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7 and Israel retaliated with a bombing campaign and total siege of the neighboring Gaza Strip, leaving the region on the verge of all-out war.
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Nov 22, 11:00 AM
Norwegian Refugee Council: 4-day pause not enough
Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said in a statement that the planned four-day pause in hostilities "is not enough time to address the immense needs after six weeks of fighting, bloodshed, and destruction."
Egeland said the pause "must pave the way for a lasting cease-fire."
"Small shelters have housed scores of people, with little food and water and mounting health hazards. Children are traumatized, and many face a future without their parents and siblings," Egeland said. "They need urgent, long-term help. This can only happen through a sustained cease-fire."
Nov 22, 10:39 AM
Israeli Hostage Center: 'No victory until every last hostage returns home'
In the wake of the approved hostage deal, in which Hamas would release 50 of the approximately 236 people taken hostage from Israel, the Israeli Hostage Center said in a statement, "There is no victory until every last hostage returns home."
The release of the at least 50 hostages would come over the course of a four-day pause in hostilities, Israel's prime minister said, and as a part of this deal, 150 Palestinian prisoners will also be released by Israel.
The hostage center said it demands "the current cease-fire terms ensure both security and welfare for remaining hostages held by Hamas, including the promised Red Cross visits."
Nov 22, 10:33 AM
IDF continues to bombard Gaza despite reaching deal on truce, hostages
Despite reaching an agreement with Hamas on a temporary cease-fire in exchange for the release of dozens of hostages, the Israeli military continued to bombard the Gaza Strip on Wednesday morning.
The Israel Defense Forces confirmed in a statement that it "is continuing to operate in the Gaza Strip, including striking terrorist infrastructure, killing terrorists, and locating weapons."
"This morning, IDF troops neutralized a terror tunnel shaft from which a Hamas terrorist exited and fired at the soldiers," the IDF said. "Moreover, IDF troops identified terrorists and located weapons in a structure used by the Hamas terrorist organization. The troops killed the terrorists and destroyed the structure."
Meanwhile, rockets launched by militants continued to be fired toward Israel on Wednesday.
The Israeli government voted early Wednesday to approve the proposed deal with Hamas, which was mediated by Egypt, Qatar and the United States. Israeli law requires a 24-hour waiting period after the vote before the agreement can be put into action, during which time the Supreme Court of Israel may need to get involved in the event of any legal challenges. However, it is expected that the cease-fire and the prisoner swap will begin Thursday morning.
-ABC News' Joe Simonetti and Morgan Winsor
Nov 22, 7:46 AM
White House official talks 'key' moment that led to 'breakthrough' in hostage deal
The "key" to securing the hostage deal between Israel and Hamas "was bearing down on both sides" to "get specific" on the details, according to U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.
The agreement that was reached on Wednesday was mediated by the United States, Qatar and Egypt.
"The big move happened late last week when [U.S.] President [Joe] Biden spoke first with [Israeli] Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and then with the emir of Qatar to say, how many hostages, for how any days in return for how many Palestinian prisoners," Sullivan told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos in an interview Wednesday on "Good Morning America."
"And it was really the work to refine those details that finally produced the breakthrough that we now see resulting in the announcement of a pause of hostilities and the first return of prisoners, of hostages," he added.
-ABC News' Morgan Winsor
Nov 22, 7:47 AM
US 'very hopeful' but 'cannot be fully confident' in hostage deal, official says
The United States is "very hopeful" in the hostage deal between Israel and Hamas but "cannot be fully confident" until the abductees return home safely, according to White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.
"You can never have full confidence until you actually see hostages back in the arms of their families," Sullivan told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos in an interview Wednesday on "Good Morning America."
"But I am very hopeful that there will be a pause, these hostages will begin to be released," he continued, "and then I am hopeful that we can build on the release of this initial 50 to get more hostages home so that every last person currently being held by the terrorist group Hamas gets home safely to their family."
The whereabouts of nine U.S. citizens and one U.S. permanent resident, or green card-holder, remains unknown in the wake of Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel, according to Sullivan, who said it's unclear whether they were among the hundreds of people who were taken hostage and brought back to the neighboring Gaza Strip.
"We don't know for certain that all 10 are still alive and we’ve been honest about that -- what we know and what we don't know,” he added. "We know that among those 10, three are women and children -- two women one child. And we believe that those three will be among the 50 who are released."
But Sullivan cautioned: "Until we actually see them come out, be in the arms of their loved ones, get home safely, we cannot be fully confident. So we are going to wait as the families are waiting with bated breath until they come but and then until every last American comes out."
-ABC News' Morgan Winsor
Nov 21, 11:42 PM
Biden confirms four-day pause 'should bring home additional American hostages'
President Joe Biden released a statement Tuesday night thanking Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani of Qatar and President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi of Egypt for their "critical leadership and partnership" in helping to broker a deal between Hamas and Israel over the release of hostages.
Biden also thanked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his commitment to the temporary pause ensuring the deal can be carried out and "bring home additional American hostages." Biden said he "will not stop until they are all released."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he was "pleased and relieved" over being "close" to seeing the release of the first 50 out of 240 hostages.
Schumer said he will continue working for the release of the remaining hostages, and called it a "positive development" that the pause in fighting will allow aid to flow to Palestinians in Gaza.
Biden said as president he has "no higher priority than ensuring the safety of Americans held hostage around the world."
Nov 21, 9:50 PM
3 Americans expected to be part of initial group of released hostages: US official
Three Americans are expected to be part of the initial group of hostages that will be released as part of a deal negotiated between Hamas, Israel, Qatar and the United States, according to a senior administration official.
They include 3-year-old Abigail Mor Idan, who was orphaned by the Oct. 7 attack and whose birthday is on Friday, the official said.
The deal will see the release of 50 hostages -- women and children -- over the course of several days.
Officials would not get into specifics about the number of additional Americans believed to be held hostage -- only reiterating that there are 10 unaccounted-for Americans.
-ABC News' Molly Nagle and Justin Gomez
Nov 21, 9:55 PM
Israel's Cabinet votes to approve deal for hostage release
Israel's Cabinet has approved a deal that would allow for the release of at least 50 hostages over the course of a four-day pause in hostilities, Israel's Prime Minister said early Wednesday morning. As a part of this deal, 150 Palestinian prisoners will also be released by Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a release the “Israeli government has approved the outline to the first phase” of bringing hostages home, with at least 50 being released over the course of the four-day pause in fighting.
The Government of Israel, the IDF and the Israeli security forces will continue to fight the war for the return of all hostages, the elimination of Hamas and to ensure that Gaza will not pose a threat to Israel, according to Netanyahu.
Earlier, sources told ABC News 42 hostages would be released.
A short while later, Hamas released its own statement early Wednesday morning local time, which had some of the same terms announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Hamas confirmed via Telegram a temporary cease-fire of four days, with the release of 50 women and children who’ve been held hostage.
In exchange, Hamas said Israel agreed to release 150 Palestinian women and children. Hamas said the juveniles released would be under 19 years old.
Nov 21, 4:04 PM
3-year-old Israeli-American may be among hostages freed: US official
The U.S. expects that Abigail Edan, an orphaned 3-year-old Israeli-American who was kidnapped by Hamas militants on Oct. 7, would be among the hostages released as part of any initial deal between Israel and Hamas, according to a U.S. official familiar with negotiations. However, the Biden administration hasn’t received any reliable guarantee that she or any of the missing Americans will be freed in the arrangement, the official said.
The official said there are many significant concerns surrounding the hostages' passage out of Gaza, and that moving the hostages out of the enclave as quickly as possible would be necessary for their protection and to facilitate ongoing talks.
While American negotiators are currently zeroed-in on securing an initial deal -- rather than focusing on subsequent swaps that might happen in exchange for a longer pause -- Hamas is expected to provide information about the conditions of hostages that will remain in custody, which could be critical in shaping the strategy going forward, the official said.
-ABC News' Shannon Crawford
Nov 21, 3:51 PM
Netanyahu: War against Hamas will not stop after cease-fire
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking ahead of Tuesday's cabinet meeting and vote on a potential hostage deal, said Israel's war against Hamas will not stop after a cease-fire.
Netanyahu said the war will continue until Hamas is destroyed, all hostages are brought home and Israel has ensured "that there will be no element in Gaza that threatens Israel."
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant added that without the continuation of Israel's operations in Gaza, there'd be no chance of bringing home more hostages.
-ABC News' Will Gretsky