Egypt, Jordan also welcome 'humanitarian truce'

Biden ‘gratified’ by Israeli okay of hostage deal; UK, France, Germany also hail it

China, Russia applaud news of pause in fighting as Paris says it hopes French citizens among released; PA welcomes truce, calls for ‘comprehensive cessation of Israeli aggression’

A woman looks at photographs of hostages held in Gaza displayed in Ramat Gan on November 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
A woman looks at photographs of hostages held in Gaza displayed in Ramat Gan on November 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

US President Joe Biden welcomed the approval of a deal to free some of the Israeli hostages held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, as European nations celebrated the agreement and urged a boost in aid to Palestinian civilians in the Strip, while Arab countries said it should be a first step toward a full ceasefire.

“Jill and I have been keeping all those held hostage and their loved ones close to our hearts these many weeks, and I am extraordinarily gratified that some of these brave souls, who have endured weeks of captivity and an unspeakable ordeal, will be reunited with their families once this deal is fully implemented,” Biden said in a statement, thanking the leaders of Qatar, Egypt and Israel for their efforts to secure the agreement.

Biden said he appreciated the commitment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “an extended pause to ensure this deal can be fully carried out and to ensure the provision of additional humanitarian assistance to alleviate the suffering of innocent Palestinian families in Gaza.”

“It is important that all aspects of this deal be fully implemented,” the US president added, noting that he plans to keep in contact with each of the aforementioned leaders to ensure that the deal is executed in its entirety.

Biden added that “from the earliest moments of Hamas’s brutal assault,” he and US officials have been working “to do everything possible to secure the release of our fellow citizens,” noting that two Americans had already been released on October 20 and that several more US citizens are expected to be freed in the coming days as a result of this deal.

“I will not stop until they are all released,” he said.

US President Joe Biden speaks at the White House complex in Washington, Nov. 14, 2023, about climate change. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Under the terms of the deal approved in the early hours of Wednesday morning by the cabinet, Israel will free 150 underage and female imprisoned Palestinian terror convicts to their homes in exchange for the release of 50 Israeli women and children kidnapped to Gaza on October 7, as well as a four-day pause in fighting in the Strip. The hostages and prisoners will be released in phases of 10-13 each day, and Israel said the Palestinian prisoners — mostly teenagers and some women — will be freed only once the hostages are back in Israeli custody. More hostages could be freed, with each group of 10 earning Hamas another day of ceasefire.

Egypt, which helped broker the deal, hailed the success in creating a “humanitarian truce,” according to President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who welcomed the planned “exchange of hostages for prisoners,” according to his office.

Jordan’s foreign ministry also issued a statement, praising Qatar and Egypt for their roles in brokering the “humanitarian truce.” The statement stressed that the truce must allow for increased aid to Gaza and lead to a more permanent ceasefire which stops the “targeting of Palestinians and their forced displacement.”

Turkey’s foreign ministry said it hoped the “humanitarian pause” will be part of efforts “to completely end the conflict as soon as possible and initiate a process towards a just and lasting peace on the basis of a two-state solution.”

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said on France Inter radio, “We hope that there are French” among the hostages set to be freed by Hamas, adding: “We hope so and we’re working toward it.” She hailed “particularly the work of Qatar” in clinching the deal.

French President Emanuel Macron later wrote on X that Paris welcomed news of the deal and is”working tirelessly to get all of the hostages freed.”

Britain’s former prime minister David Cameron leaves Downing Street, in London, Nov. 13, 2023 after he was named foreign secretary. (James Manning/PA via AP)

The UK also welcomed the deal. “This agreement is a crucial step towards providing relief to the families of the hostages and addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” Foreign Secretary David Cameron said in a statement.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock wrote on X, “The announced release of the first major group of hostages is a breakthrough — even if nothing in the world can undo their suffering.” She urged, “The humanitarian pause must be used to bring vital aid to people in Gaza.”

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said she had ordered her European Commission to step up aid deliveries to Gaza. “The European Commission will do its utmost to use this pause for a humanitarian surge to Gaza,” she said in a statement, adding that “I wholeheartedly welcome the agreement.”

Trucks carrying humanitarian aid enter the southern Gaza Strip from Egypt via the Rafah border crossing on November 19, 2023. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres “welcomes the agreement reached by Israel and Hamas, with the mediation of Qatar supported by Egypt and the United States,” a spokesman for the UN chief said in a statement, adding that “this is an important step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done.”

China and Russia, which have been heavily critical of Israel since the war began on October 7 with Hamas’s murderous onslaught, also issued congratulatory statements.

“We welcome the temporary ceasefire agreement reached by relevant parties,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told a regular briefing. Beijing said it hopes “that it will help ease the plight of the humanitarian crisis, deescalate the conflict and ease tensions.”

“Since the outbreak of the current round of Palestinian-Israeli conflict, China has always called for a ceasefire and made unremitting efforts to cool down the situation, protect civilians and carry out humanitarian assistance,” she added.

Moscow “welcomes the agreement between Israel and Hamas on a four-day humanitarian pause,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a post on Telegram.

The Palestinian Authority also hailed the truce, calling for a more permanent ceasefire but not mentioning the release of hostages or prisoners.

“President Mahmoud Abbas and the leadership welcome the humanitarian truce agreement, value the Qatari-Egyptian effort made and reaffirm the call for a comprehensive cessation of the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people and the entry of humanitarian aid,” senior PA official Hussein al-Sheikh wrote on X.

During its October 7 onslaught against southern Israel, Hamas and other terror groups took close to 250 Israelis and foreign nationals hostage and killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, amid shocking scenes of brutal violence.

Since then, four hostages have been released and one was rescued in an IDF operation, while the military recovered the bodies of two other hostages it said were killed by Hamas in captivity.

The Hamas-run Health Ministry claims that more than 14,000 Gazans have been killed since the start of the war, in figures that cannot be independently verified and do not distinguish between civilians and Hamas operatives or between those killed by Israeli airstrikes and those killed by failed Palestinian rocket launches.

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