A cease-fire agreement between the Hamas militant group and Israel has been confirmed by both parties, along with Washington and Qatar, which helped broker the deal that would bring a temporary halt to the devastating war that is now in its seventh week.
The Israeli government said that under an outline of the deal, Hamas is to free at least 50 of the roughly 240 hostages taken in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack over a four-day period. Qatar, which mediates with Hamas, later confirmed the deal, saying the start time will be announced in the next 24 hours and that it will last for four days. The agreement will bring the first respite to war-weary Palestinians in Gaza, where more than 11,000 people have been killed, according to health authorities.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said before the Cabinet voted early Wednesday that the war would continue even if a deal was reached. Some 1,200 people have been killed in Israel, mostly during the initial incursion by Hamas.
— Truce deal raises hopes of freeing hostages in Gaza and halting worst Mideast violence in decades
— South African lawmakers vote in favor of closing Israel’s embassy and cutting diplomatic ties.
— Bahrain government websites are briefly inaccessible after a cyberattack over the Israel-Hamas war.
— Gaza health officials say they lost the ability to count dead as Israeli offensive intensifies
— Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war
Here’s what's happening in the war:
US STRIKES BACK AT IRAN-BACKED MILITANTS IN IRAQ
Baghdad — The United States military said Wednesday that it had carried out strikes against Iran-backed groups in Iraq that have launched attacks on U.S. forces.
Two officials with Iranian-backed militias in Iraq said the strikes hit three locations in the area of Jurf al-Sakhar south of Baghdad, killing five members of the Kataeb Hezbollah militant group and wounding seven. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Iranian-backed militants have launched dozens of attacks on bases and facilities housing U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria since Oct. 17. While most of the more than five dozen attacks have been ineffective, at least 60 U.S. personnel have reported minor injuries. The militant groups have said that the strikes are in retaliation for U.S. support of Israel in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
The U.S. Central Command said in a statement Wednesday that its forces had “conducted discrete, precision strikes against two facilities in Iraq … in direct response to the attacks against U.S. and Coalition forces by Iran and Iran-backed groups,” including one on Tuesday involving the use of close-range ballistic missiles.
Qassim Abdul-Zahra reported from Baghdad.
FRANCE IS HOPEFUL ITS NATIONALS WILL BE AMONG THE FIRST RELEASED UNDER DEAL
PARIS — France’s foreign minister says she’s hopeful that French nationals will be among the first hostages released as part of a truce deal between Israel and Hamas.
“We hope that French nationals are among them and even, if possible, among the first group that will be released,” the minister, Catherine Colonna, said Wednesday morning on France Inter radio. “We are working for that.”
France counts eight people missing, some of them confirmed as hostages, from the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas militants that ignited their latest and deadliest war. France also counts 40 killed in the attack. Colonna said that not all the hostages taken on Oct. 7 were captured by Hamas. But she said that in the course of negotiations, the militant group has said that “it could assemble together all of the hostages.”
THE RED CROSS STANDS BY TO ASSIST ANY SWAP
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The International Committee of the Red Cross says it is standing by to assist any swap in the Israel-Hamas war.
“Currently, we are actively engaged in talks with the parties to help carry out any humanitarian agreement they reach,” the Red Cross said. “As a neutral intermediary, it is important to clarify that we are not part of the negotiations, and we do not make decisions on the substance of it. Our role is to facilitate the implementation, once the parties agree.”