Israel said a four-day Gaza truce and hostage release will not start until at least Friday, delaying a breakthrough deal to pause the brutal war with Hamas.
National security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi indicated the phased release of at least 50 hostages in return for 150 Palestinian prisoners would still go ahead but not on Thursday as expected.
“The contacts on the release of our hostages are advancing and continuing constantly,” he said in a statement about the agreed deal to free mostly women and people aged 18 and under on both sides.
A second Israeli official said that a temporary halt in fighting would also not begin on Thursday as bombardment and combat again raged in northern Gaza.
The delay is another blow to families desperate to see their loved ones return home, and to two million-plus Gazans praying for an end to 47 days of war and deprivation.
The complex and carefully choreographed deal saw Israel and Hamas agree a four-day truce, during which at least 50 hostages taken in the Palestinian militant group’s attacks would be released in phases.
A Palestinian official with knowledge of the negotiation process who asked not to be named told AFP on Friday that the delay stemmed from “last minute” details over which hostages would be released and how.
Hamas and other Palestinian gunmen seized around 240 hostages during unprecedented raids into Israel on October 7 which killed 1,200 people, most of them civilians, according to Israeli authorities.
The attack prompted a relentless Israeli campaign of bombing and a ground offensive in Hamas-run Gaza, whose authorities say it has killed more than 14,000 people, thousands of them children.
An Israeli government document said that, in a second phase, for every 10 additional hostages released, there would be an extra day’s “pause” in fighting.
Three Americans, including three-year-old Abigail Mor Idan, were among those earmarked for release.
In turn, Israel would free at least 150 Palestinian women and young detainees and allow more humanitarian aid into the besieged coastal territory.
The holdup came after weeks of talks involving Israel, Palestinian militant groups, Qatar, Egypt and the United States.
Qatari foreign ministry spokesman Majed Al-Ansari said Thursday that implementation of the accord “continues and is going positively.”