An exchange of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners and temporary ceasefire that was set to begin Thursday at 10:00 a.m. has been delayed to Friday at 7:00 a.m, it was announced mid-Thursday.
A spokesperson for the Qatari foreign ministry said that the four-day ceasefire would begin on Friday morning, with the handover of 13 Israeli hostages to take place at 4:00 p.m.
The Israeli prime minister's office confirmed it had received an "initial" list of the hostages and was in contact with their families.
The Israeli government late Wednesday night had announced that the swap would be delayed, which led to speculation about the cause and questions regarding the new timing of the deal.
Israel and Hamas, the terror organization in control of the Gaza Strip, had agreed to a Qatari-brokered deal that would see at least 50 Israeli women and children released in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners. A four day truce was also part of the deal, with the release of each 10 additional hostages buying another day of a temporary ceasefire.
U.S. and Qatari officials insisted that the deal was agreed-upon and that there remained only logistical issues. Senior Egyptian officials told the Wall Street Journal that the delay was a result of Hamas not sending a list of the first group of hostages to be released.
Approximately 240 hostages have been held captive in the Gaza Strip since Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel on October 7. They are mostly Israeli civilians but include foreign workers and Israeli soldiers as well. The hostages are held not just by Hamas but the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad and reportedly by other Gazan clans.
Israel's ground invasion of Gaza began in late October and has resulted in the mass evacuation of Palestinians from the north to the south of the strip. The Israel-Hamas deal would also allow for an influx of humanitarian aid and fuel into the strip.
Both Israel and the United States have indicated that they fully expect the war to continue following the temporary ceasefire. “The fight is not over. The war is not over. The threat that Hamas poses is still real and still viable to the Israeli people,” said NSC spokesperson John Kirby in a briefing with American-Jewish leaders.