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Aid trucks arrive in Gaza Strip under deal terms, Israeli agency says

Trucks carrying humanitarian aid begin to move into Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on Nov. 24, 2023.

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Aid trucks have begun to enter the Gaza Strip as part of the cease-fire and hostage release deal between Israel and Hamas.

Four tankers of fuel and four of cooking gas were transported from Egypt to U.N. humanitarian aid organizations through the Rafah crossing, the Israeli agency for the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories said on social media.

The supplies are exclusively intended to help operate essential humanitarian infrastructure in the Gaza enclave, COGAT noted.

“This was approved by the government of Israel as part of the pause and the framework for the release of the hostages agreed with the United States and mediated by Qatar and Egypt,” the agency said.

Ruxandra Iordache

Hamas official says 200 of the hostages held are Israel soldiers

The number of captives held by Palestinian militant group Hamas could be slightly higher than previously estimated by Israel.

In a Sky News interview, senior Hamas official Basem Naim said the group’s armed unit, the al-Qassam brigades, have conveyed that roughly 200 Israeli soldiers were abducted during the terror attacks of Oct. 7, along with roughly 50-60 civilians comprising women, children and foreigners.

He said, however, that the concrete numbers were difficult to tally, because of ongoing Israeli bombardment and because of the number of Hamas groups holding hostages.

Israel had estimated 240 captives were detained by Hamas.

“We need security conditions so that it is safe to release them,” Naim said, confirming that 50 of the hostages would be returned in exchange for 150 of Palestinian civilians detained by Israel, over the course of a brokered four-day humanitarian pause in fighting.

He refuted claims that the Israel Defense Forces had discovered weapons and militarily purposed tunnels at the Al-Shifa hospital in the Gaza Strip, saying Israel had yet to prove its allegations. The IDF has supplied multiple clips and photos as evidence since its incursion at the Al-Shifa hospital. CNBC could not independently verify the materials.

Ruxandra Iordache

‘War is not over yet,’ Israeli military spokesperson says

Fighting between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas has only temporarily suspended, an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson stressed, urging Palestinian civilians to continue southward evacuations of the embattled north of the Gaza Strip.

“The war is not over yet,” Avichay Adraee said, according to an IDF social media update. “The humanitarian pause is temporary. The northern Gaza Strip is a dangerous war zone and it is forbidden to move north.”

He went on, “For your safety, you must remain in the humanitarian zone in the south.”

Israel has accepted a four-day limited truce as a component of an extensive hostage release deal, but officials have so far emphasized that the brief halt in fighting does not currently represent the start of a more lasting peace.

Ruxandra Iordache

Temporary cease-fire comes into effect

The first limited pause in fighting formally began earlier on Friday, the child of long diplomatic labor that will see a first batch of 13 hostages abducted by Hamas on Oct. 7 released later in the day. A number of Palestinian people detained by Israeli forces will be allowed to return home, in kind.

It remains to be seen whether both sides — unequivocal in their condemnations of each other until the last moment — will adhere to the terms of the agreement.

Sirens were still sounding within the first few hours of the freshly brokered peace, according to two updates from the Israel Defense Forces on Telegram.

The Israeli military further said it “completed its operational preparations according to the combat lines of the pause,” winding down its campaign after a spate of eleventh-hour fighting. The force said that prior to the cease-fire coming into effect, earlier this morning, it destroyed a tunnel it claims was present at the Al-Shifa medical complex, once the largest functional hospital in the Gaza Strip, and said it continued to hit “terror targets” — which CNBC could not independently verify.

In the Gaza Strip, militant group Hamas on Thursday called for the truce, painstakingly brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the U.S., to allow for extensive humanitarian aid deliveries, including food, medical supplies necessary to restart 26 of the enclave’s now resource-depleted hospitals and critical fuel supplies to operate hospitals, pumping wells and sewage facilities, according to a Google translation of a Telegram post.

Ruxandra Iordache

Here are the details of the Israel-Hamas hostage deal

Israel and Hamas have agreed to a pause in fighting in Gaza to allow for the release of 50 hostages held by the militant group in exchange for 150 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons and also to allow for more aid to enter the enclave.

What are the details?

Under the deal, the two sides agreed to a four-day truce so that 50 women and children under the age of 19 taken hostage could be freed in return for 150 Palestinian women and teenagers in Israeli detention.

The 50 hostages, among about 240 taken by Hamas in their Oct. 7 raid on Israel, are expected to be released in batches, probably about a dozen a day, during the four-day ceasefire.

Sides to the deal have called the break in hostilities “a humanitarian pause”. The pause will be extended by a day for each additional batch of 10 hostages released, Israel said in a statement.

Hamas said Israel had agreed to halt air traffic over the north of Gaza from 10 a.m. (0800 GMT) until 4 p.m. (1400 GMT) each day of the truce and to halt all air traffic over the south for the entire period. The group said Israel agreed not to attack or arrest anyone in Gaza, and people can move freely along Salah al-Din Street, the main road along which many Palestinians have fled northern Gaza where Israel launched its ground invasion.

Qatar’s chief negotiator in ceasefire talks, Minister of State at the Foreign Ministry Mohammed Al-Khulaifi, said that under the deal there would be “no attack whatsoever. No military movements, no expansion, nothing.” He said Qatar hoped it would “be a seed to a bigger agreement and a permanent cease of fire.”

Who are the hostages being released?

Hamas has not released a full list of names of those being held in Gaza. A U.S. official said the group had said it needed a pause “to locate and determine where people are”. Not all the hostages taken on Oct. 7 were being held by Hamas fighters.

Among the 50 women and children under the age of 19 being released by Hamas are three U.S. citizens, including a girl who turns 4 on Friday, the U.S. official said.

Who negotiated the deal?

Qatar played a large mediation role. Hamas has a political office in Doha and the Qatari government has kept channels of communication open with Israel, even though unlike some other Gulf Arab states it has not normalised ties with Israel.

The United States also played a crucial role, with U.S. President Joe Biden holding calls with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the weeks leading up to the deal.

Egypt, the first Arab state to sign a peace deal with Israel and which has long played a mediation role over the decades of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was also involved.

— Reuters

Israel’s economic growth to slow to 2% in 2023 due to war, finance ministry says

Israel’s economy is expected to grow 2% in 2023, down from a prior estimate of 2.7%, the Finance Ministry said on Thursday citing the effects of Israel’s war with Hamas.

For 2024, the ministry projected growth of 1.6% as its main estimate based on a war that will continue through the year but with the most intense fighting ending in the first quarter and largely contained to the southern border with Gaza.

But a more rapid recovery from the war that would end in early 2024 could lead to growth of 2.2% while a war that continues into 2025 and a slower recovery would mean stagnant growth of just 0.2%.

It noted that prior to the war it was set to raise its 2023 forecast to 3.4%, and the war’s impact would be 1.4 percentage points.

The main factor weighing on growth, the ministry said, is poor consumer sentiment that will likely translate into largely flat private spending, Israel’s main growth driver, while exports look to dip 0.6% this year.

The economy grew 6.5% in 2022.

“The war situation is characterized by particularly high levels of uncertainty, but its impact on the economy goes beyond any security incident experienced by the State of Israel during the last two decades,” said a report from the ministry’s chief economist’s office ahead of discussions to update the state budget for 2023 and 2024.

— Reuters

Photos show damage sustained in Gaza amid Israel-Hamas war

Photos published via Getty Images on Thursday shows the damage sustained in the Gaza Strip amid Israel’s ongoing military campaign, a collapsed residential area of the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza and smoke billowing after an Israeli airstrike in northern Gaza.

A view of damage at Al-Shafi’i Mosque and destruction in the area after Israeli attacks in southwestern of Gaza City, Gaza on November 23, 2023.

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A top view of the collapsed residential area of the Nuseirat Refugee Camp following an Israeli army’s airstrikes, as residents and personnel conduct search and rescue operation around the site in Deir Al Balah, Gaza on November 23, 2023.

Anadolu | Anadolu | Getty Images

A view of the collapsed residential area of the Nuseirat Refugee Camp after Israeli airstrikes, as residents and personnel conduct search and rescue operations around the site in Deir Al Balah, Gaza, on Nov. 23, 2023.

Anadolu | Anadolu | Getty Images

This picture taken from southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip shows smoke billowing after an Israeli strike on north Gaza on November 23, 2023, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement.

Menahem Kahana | Afp | Getty Images

Former British PM expresses hope that humanitarian deal ‘can be delivered’

Recently appointed British Foreign Minister David Cameron expressed hope that a hostage release and humanitarian deal agreed between Israel and Hamas “can be delivered,” according to a Google-translated readout from the Israeli prime minister’s office.

David Cameron, the new UK foreign secretary and former prime minister, views a home destroyed in last month’s Hamas attack with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (R) on November 23, 2023 at kibbutz Be’eri, Israel.

Christopher Furlong | Getty Images

“Today, obviously, it’s important we talk about this potential humanitarian pause. I think it’s an opportunity to crucially get hostages out and to get aid into Gaza. There’s never an excuse for this sort of hostage taking. All the hostages should be released,” Cameron said.

“I hope everyone who’s responsible and behind this agreement can make it happen, to bring relief to those families, including, of course, there are British nationals who have been taken hostage. And so that, let’s hope that that can be delivered. “

Cameron was in Israel on Thursday, in a trip that included a visit to the Kibbutz Be’eri community, one of the sites ravaged by the Hamas terror attack of Oct. 7.

Ruxandra Iordache

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