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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - DOHA/TEL AVIV — Qatar said on Thursday morning that it will announce “in the next few hours” when the truce between Israel and Hamas is set to begin, but Israel said no hostages will be released before Friday.
A diplomatic source told CNN that the truce is likely to begin Friday, with the earliest time being midnight local time (5 p.m. ET).
Previously, the expectation had been that the first releases and the pause in fighting would take place as early as Thursday.
The first hostages were initially expected to be released as early as Thursday. The start of the agreed temporary truce in fighting is also delayed until Friday, an Israeli official told CNN.
Israel’s Supreme Court has rejected a legal challenge to the Gaza hostage deal.
The talks on how to implement the hostage deal between Israel and Hamas are ongoing and progressing positively, Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesperson Majed Al Ansari said in a statement posted on X.
“The work between the two parties, and our partners in Egypt and the US, is ongoing to ensure the speedy implementation of the truce, and to provide what is necessary to ensure that both parties adhere to the agreement,” the statement added.
The Biden administration is hopeful the hostage release process will begin Friday morning as the parties work out “final logistical details,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement Wednesday night.
“The deal was agreed and remains agreed. The parties are working out final logistical details particularly for the first day of implementation,” Watson said. “It is our view that nothing should be left to chance as the hostages begin coming home. Our primary objective is to ensure that they are brought home safely. That is on track and we are hopeful that implementation will begin on Friday morning.”
A senior US official elaborated that more time was needed to iron out details related to the locations and routes of each of the hostages as well as the logistics of moving them.
A decision was made to wait one extra day to minimize things going wrong, said the official, who added Israel made the decision together with Qatar and Egypt, and that the US was consulted on and agreed with the decision.
There is uncertainty over the reasons behind a delay in the release of hostages from Gaza, with one Israeli official familiar with the matter downplaying its seriousness. They reduced the issue down to “fairly minor implementation details.”
Another official told CNN part of the reason was Israel had not yet received names of the first hostages to be released by Hamas.
The US official said the fact that Israel had not yet received the names of the first group of hostages to be released was not a serious issue, but added that it would be more worrisome if there was still no list by Thursday evening.
Israeli media is reporting that neither Israel nor Hamas have signed the hostage release agreement, though it is not clear whether this should be enough to pause the deal.
Even so, no Israeli official has expressed concern the entire arrangement has fallen apart.
Speaking at a Wednesday evening news conference held before the delay was announced, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed confidence the agreement would soon go into effect, even as he offered few details about its implementation.
Earlier, the Israel Defense Forces spokesperson had struck a note of caution over the hostage release process.
“This is a complicated process which is not yet complete – it will take time and will be executed in a number of stages. I wish to emphasize that it is not yet finalized, and it may yet take time until it is finalized,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said at his regular evening briefing.
“I don’t know when the truce will come into effect, but in the meantime ... our focus is on the fighting,” he continued.
Hagari said Israel’s military is cooperating with all the relevant bodies to administer “an orderly process” to receive hostages from Hamas.
The coming days will be “filled with moment of relief and moments of pain,” he said, warning that they could also include “attempts to carry out psychological terror, aimed against us by the terror organizations.”
He also said that the chief of the general staff of the IDF, Herzi Halevi, has approved “the war’s plans and stages for the future, and particularly the readiness for the next few days.”
Hagari stressed that “a long fight is ahead” for the Israeli military.
Israel’s Supreme Court has rejected a legal challenge to the Gaza hostage deal which includes the release of at least 150 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
The Almagor association, which was set up in 1986 to represent victims of terror, had claimed that the government's decision, among a series of objections, intensified the risk of “the recurrence of serious acts of terrorism to which all the citizens and residents of the country are exposed.”
Almagor had asked the Supreme Court to “annul the government's decision ... [and] order [the government] to discuss again the terms of the deal with Hamas,” according to information released by the Court.
The Court said it rejected the petition outright on the grounds that the hostage deal “is a clear political issue to which this court does not consider its involvement as necessary.”
The ruling clears any legal objection in Israel to the execution of the deal that involves the exchange of Israeli hostages in Gaza for the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. — CNN
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