A four-day cease-fire between Israel and Hamas began in the Gaza Strip on Friday, with Israel committing to a pause in its offensive in return for the freeing of around 50 women and children from among the hostages held by the Palestinian militant group.

The cease-fire, which was brokered by the United States and Qatar, began at 7 a.m. local time, with the first 13 women and children set to be released at around 4 p.m.

It is the first truce agreed by the two parties since Hamas launched a surprise cross-border attack on Oct. 7, followed by a protracted air and ground assault into Palestinian territories by Israel in response.

Smoke rises after Israeli attacks in Rafah, Gaza, on Nov. 23, 2023. (Anadolu Agency/Getty/Kyodo)

Gaza is set to receive humanitarian aid during the period, consisting of 200 aid trucks and another four trucks with fuel per day.

The International Committee of the Red Cross will support the hostage release. The Qatari government has expressed hope the cease-fire period will be extended.

International focus is on whether the cease-fire will be honored as Israel continued its ground offensive into Thursday night. About 30 people were reportedly killed, according to Hamas, following an attack by Israeli forces on a school run by the United Nations in a refugee camp in northern Gaza the same evening.

The Israeli government said it contacted families of the hostages that are expected to be released, while Hamas said three Palestinians held by Israel will be returned per hostage.

Israel's bombardment has killed over 14,800, according to the latest figures released by Gaza authorities on Thursday. Israel says its death toll is at around 1,200 people.


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