The Israel-Hamas deal proceeded mostly as agreed over the weekend, with a fourth and final agreed hostage-prisoner swap due today (Monday).
Who are the people being exchanged?
Hamas took ~240 hostages during its attack on Israel on 7 October, and it’s now on track to have released around 50 of those under this deal by today’s end.
- Among the youngest released is a three-year-old girl, Yahel Shoham
- Among the oldest is Yaffa Adar, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, and
- Hamas has also released an American (and dual Israeli), Avigail Edan, who just turned four on Friday (Hamas killed her parents on October 7th).
For its part, Israel published last Wednesday (to allow time for any appeals) a list of 300 Palestinians it could release; mostly males aged 14 to 18, plus ~33 women.
Israel is on track to have released ~150 of those by the end of today.
- The youngest on the list is 14-year-old Adam Hassan Gheit, detained in May for allegedly attacking a police officer and throwing stones, and
- The oldest released so far is Hanan al-Barghouthi, the 59-year-old sister of Hamas figure Nael Al-Barghouti (she was arrested in September for unspecified alleged harm to “state security”).
Israel says it’s not freeing anyone convicted of murder, though the list does include those with violent convictions. For example, Israel has released Israa Jaabis, a woman jailed for detonating an explosive at a police checkpoint.
Others released had reportedly been detained without charge or trial under Israel’s controversial ‘administrative detention’ regime.
Meanwhile, there’s been one main wobble in the deal so far: on Saturday, Hamas claimed Israel wasn’t allowing aid in as agreed, while Israel said Hamas wasn’t releasing mothers together with their children as agreed.
Qatari and Egyptian mediation ended up salvaging the deal, and the Qataris are now reportedly mediating another unspecified dispute that’s just emerged.
What happens now?
Hamas said yesterday it’s willing to extend the truce beyond today, and both US President Biden and Qatar’s foreign ministry have backed an extension.
For its part, Israel says its conditions remain unchanged: it’ll extend the pause by a day -and release more prisoners- for each additional 10 hostages Hamas frees.
The weekend’s events have been revealing in a few ways.
First, Hamas and Israel both sought to project strength while complying with their deal: Hamas released its third tranche of hostages in the middle of Gaza City (where Israel has established control), while Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu visited troops (🇮🇱) nearby in Gaza the very same day.
Second, many of the released Palestinians have been returned to jubilant crowds in the West Bank, where the ailing Palestinian Authority (PA) holds power. This apparent Hamas result will highlight the PA’s weakness.
Third, the numbers look better for Israel compared to 2011, when it traded 1,027 Palestinian prisoners (including the current Hamas chief in Gaza) for a single Israeli soldier; and that was after five years in captivity versus 50 days this time. Israel will believe its military response has made the difference.
For now, the longer this pause extends, the harder it’ll be (operationally and reputationally) for Israel to end it. But that’s still what it’s vowing to do.