AFP – Doha, Qatar: Qatar confirmed on Wednesday that Israel and Hamas had reached an agreement on a four-day humanitarian pause, to begin in the next 24 hours, in exchange for the release of 50 hostages in Gaza.

“The starting time of the pause will be announced within the next 24 hours and last for four days, subject to extension,” Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

“The agreement includes the release of 50 civilian women and children hostages currently held in the Gaza Strip in exchange for the release of a number of Palestinian women and children detained in Israeli prisons, the number of those released will be increased in later stages of implementing the agreement,” it added.

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Qatar has been engaged in weeks of intense, behind-the-scenes negotiations aimed at freeing some of the 240 hostages held in Gaza in return for temporary ceasefire and access for humanitarian aid.

The number agreed for release by the militants is by far the largest since Hamas gunmen stormed over Gaza’s militarised border on October 7, seizing the hostages and killing 1,200 people, according to Israeli authorities.

In response, Israel has launched a relentless bombing campaign and subsequent ground invasion in Hamas-ruled Gaza, killing more than 14,100 people — two thirds of them women or children — according to the territory’s health ministry.

Qatar said the deal had been undertaken with Egypt and the United States as well as Hamas and Israel and would include “the entry of a larger number of humanitarian convoys and relief aid, including fuel designated for humanitarian needs”.