Jerusalem — Israel’s military continued pummeling the Gaza Strip on Thursday after a four-day cease-fire intended to see the militant group Hamas free dozens of Israeli hostages in exchange for the release of some 150 Palestinian prisoners was. About 10 U.S. citizens remain unaccounted for after Hamas’ brutal Oct. 7 terror attack, and some of them are thought to be hostages, including 3-year-old .
With Israeli-American families such as Abigail’s hoping on Thanksgiving that their loved ones might soon be free, the Qatari government announced the temporary cease-fire will start Friday at 7 a.m. local time (midnight EST) with 13 Israeli hostages being released several hours later.
Under the, Hamas is incentivized to release more of the 236 captives Israel accuses it of seizing during its rampage across southern Israel, which saw the U.S.-designated terror group kill some 1,200 people. Every 10 additional hostages freed by Hamas will see Israel extend the temporary cease-fire by one day. More Palestinian prisoners would also be released if the deal is extended, at a ratio of three prisoners for every hostage handed over.
In Israel, six weeks of anxious waiting could soon be over for some of the hostages’ families.
Hadas Calderon told CBS News that her life ended and her “family was broken” the moment Hamas gunmen stormed through their small farming community of Kibbutz Nir Oz on Oct. 7 and abducted her daughter Sahar, 16, and her son Erez, who’s 12.
Asked what she thought her children have been through since that day, Calderon said: “Hell! Hell is what they’re going through… I just want them to come back and [to] heal them.”
As other American families prepared tables for Thanksgiving dinner, in central Tel Aviv, a dining table was set with a seat for every one of the 236 hostages that Israel says are being held in Gaza.
Palestinians demand end to Gaza war, release of all prisoners
But with Israel’s military still carrying out regular airstrikes and ground operations in Gaza — all of which it says target the Palestinian territory’s long-time Hamas rulers or other extremist groups — and the death toll said to be over 13,000, besieged residents have told CBS News that a four-day pause in the fighting isn’t enough.
“We’ve lost thousands of people,” said one girl at a protest in Ramallah, the biggest city in the other Palestinian territory, the Israeli-occupied West Bank. “If the war continues, we’ll lose everyone.”
The demonstrators want to see an end to the war completely, and they want Israel to release all Palestinian prisoners. According to Palestinian prisoners’ rights groups, there are more than 200 Palestinian children in Israeli prisons, and around 75 women.
Dozens of people have been arrested over the past few weeks alone, bringing the total number of Palestinians currently held in Israeli jails to over 7,000 according to prisoner rights advocates.
“Ultimately, I want freedom and I want for liberation,” Palestinian journalist and activist Joharah Baker, who is based in Jerusalem, told CBS News. “Palestinians deserve to be free.”
Samaher Aouwad’s daughter Norhan is on Israel’s list of those who could be released from prison this week. She was arrested at the age of 15 for the attempted stabbing of an Israeli soldier. She has always denied the charge, but she’s spent nine years in prison for it.
“The Israeli occupation stole her childhood, and that’s what I feel sad about,” Aouwad told CBS News. “No one can replace her childhood.”
Israel has used the release of Palestinian prisoners for decades as leverage in its negotiations with various Palestinian leaders.
In 2011, Hamas agreed to free kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for the release of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.
Gershon Baskin, an Israeli hostage negotiator who helped secure that agreement, told CBS News the fact that the militants are getting just three prisoners in exchange for each hostage they release this time is an indication that Hamas is eager to hand back women, children and elderly hostages it’s holding.
“They were a burden” on the Palestinian militant group, he said. “Once they have the soldiers and only the soldiers, they will then begin demanding what they really want, which is the release of all Palestinian prisoners in Israel.”
Hamas has yet to iterate such a demand, and while Israel has not provided a breakdown of how many of the hostages are civilians and how many are soldiers, the extremist group has never had the kind of leverage it does now.
In the meantime, with less than 24 hours until the expected pause in the fighting, Israel is continuing with its stated mission: To “destroy Hamas.”
Asked Thursday if Israeli forces were trying to avoid complicating the plan for a short cease-fire by reducing their aerial assault on densely-populated areas in Gaza, military spokesperson Lt. Col. Richard Hecht told reporters it was “business as usual,” adding that due to the possibility of operations pausing soon, they could, in the interim, “even intensify.”
Israel & Hamas At War