Israel's government has voted to back a deal for Palestinian Hamas militants to free 50 women and children held as hostages in Gaza in exchange for a four-day pause in fighting, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced.
Officials from Qatar, which has been mediating negotiations, as well as the US, Israel and Hamas have for days been saying a deal was imminent.
The accord will see the first truce of the war, which began on October 7.
Before gathering with his full government, Netanyahu met on Tuesday with his war cabinet and wider national security cabinet over the deal. Hamas is believed to be holding more than 200 hostages, taken when its fighters surged into Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people.
Ahead of the announcement of the deal, Netanyahu said the intervention of US President Joe Biden had helped to improve the tentative agreement so that it included more hostages and fewer concessions.
A US official briefed on the discussions said ahead of the deal that it would include the exchange of 150 Palestinian prisoners.
The pause would also allow for humanitarian aid into Gaza.
But Netanyahu said Israel's broader mission had not changed.
"We are at war and we will continue the war until we achieve all our goals. To destroy Hamas, return all our hostages and ensure that no entity in Gaza can threaten Israel," he said in a recorded message at the start of the latest government meeting.
The first release of hostages was expected on Thursday. Implementing the deal must wait for 24 hours to give Israeli citizens the chance to ask the Supreme Court to block the release of Palestinian prisoners, reports said.
Hamas has, to date, released only four captives: US citizens Judith Raanan, 59, and her daughter, Natalie Raanan, 17, on October 20, citing "humanitarian reasons", and Israeli women Nurit Cooper, 79, and Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, on October 23.
The armed wing of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, which participated in the October 7 raid with Hamas, said late on Tuesday that one of the Israeli hostages it has held since the October 7 attacks on Israel had died.
- Via AAP
Feature image: Getty.