Mediator Qatar says truce in Gaza to start on Friday

By Andrew Mills

DOHA (Reuters) -A truce between Israel and Hamas in Gaza will start on Friday at 7 a.m. (0500 GMT), with a the first batch of hostages to be released at 4 p.m., a spokesperson for Qatar’s foreign ministry said on Thursday.

The truce would include a comprehensive ceasefire in both the north and south of the Gaza Strip, Majed Al-Ansari told reporters in Doha, adding that Palestinians would also be released from Israeli jails as part of the deal.

The first group of hostages to be released would be 13 women and children, Ansari said

“If there were a group of hostages from the same family they will be released together in this first batch,” he added, adding that a total of 50 hostages will be released over four days.

Israel has said the truce could last beyond the initial four days, as long as the militants free at least 10 hostages per day.

The first pause in the seven-week-old war is meant to be accompanied by the release of 50 women and children hostages captured by militants who raided Israel on Oct. 7, in exchange for 150 Palestinian detainees from Israeli jails.

Ansari did not give details on how many Palestinian women and children will be released from Israeli jails on Friday or when this would take place. He said Doha expected they will be released by Israel as part of this reciprocal deal.

An operations room in Doha will monitor the truce and the release of hostages and has direct and real-time lines of communication with Israel, the Hamas political office in Doha and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), he added.

“The important thing is that we maintain a very clear line of communication with everybody through the operations room and make sure that the environment which the hostage transfer will happen will be a safe one,” Ansari said.

Qatar hopes to negotiate a subsequent agreement to release additional hostages from Gaza by the fourth day of the truce.

“We all hope that this truce will lead to a chance to start a wider work to achieve a permanent truce,” he said.

(Reporting by Andrew Mills, writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi, Editing by Alex Richardson and Andrew Heavens)