Israel's Cabinet Accepts Deal to Free Hamas Hostages 2:08

(CNN) -- Plans to release the first hostages under the Israeli-Hamas deal were delayed Wednesday night, just hours before the planned and painstakingly negotiated pause in fighting began.

Israel's National Security Council said in a statement that the first group of hostages would not be released before Friday. An Israeli official told CNN that the start of the temporary truce that was agreed to in the fighting was also delayed until Friday.

"Talks to free our hostages are progressing and ongoing. The start of the release process will take place according to the original agreement between both sides, and no earlier than Friday," the statement said.

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Israel and Hamas earlier reached an agreement to halt fighting for four days and release at least 50 women and children out of the more than 230 who remain hostage in Gaza. An Israeli official told CNN on Wednesday that the truce was scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. local time (3:00 a.m. Miami time) on Thursday.

There is no certainty as to the reasons for the delay.

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A spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council said in a statement late Wednesday that the hostage deal "remains as agreed," adding that the parties were "working on the final logistical details, particularly for the first day of implementation."

"Our view is that nothing should be left to chance when hostages start to return home," said Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council. "Our main goal is to ensure they return home safely. That's on track and we expect execution to begin on Friday morning."

An Israeli official familiar with the matter downplayed its severity, attributing it to "rather minor implementation details."

But another official told CNN that part of the reason was that Israel had not yet received the names of the first hostages to be freed by Hamas.

At a press conference Wednesday night before the delay was announced, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed confidence that the deal would soon enter into force, though he offered few details on its implementation.

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However, Israeli officials and analysts have long warned that any deal would be precarious until the hostages were safe across the border.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Wednesday continued its ground and air operations in Gaza ahead of the planned start of the truce, carrying out attacks in northeastern and central Gaza. According to Palestinian reports, areas further south, such as Khan Younis and Rafah, were also attacked.

At a briefing Wednesday before the delay was announced, Daniel Hagari, a spokesman for Israel's military, called the pending truce a "complicated process" that "has not yet been finalized."

The process "could take time and take several stages," he added.

The agreement marks a major diplomatic breakthrough nearly seven weeks into a conflict that has led to a serious humanitarian crisis in the enclave. The announcement was greeted with relief and great anticipation by the families of the hostages.

The agreement, presented by Qatar, the chief negotiator, provides for the release of hostages held by Hamas in exchange for several Palestinian women and children imprisoned in Israel. In addition, the truce would allow the entry of "a greater number of humanitarian convoys and relief aid," according to the statement.

There is an option for the pause to last up to 10 days, but Israeli officials believe it is unlikely to last that long.

  • U.S. has a "preliminary list" of hostages likely to be released by Hamas on Thursday, source says

When the deal was approved, Netanyahu said that for every 10 hostages released, there would be an additional one-day pause in the fighting.

Hamas is holding 236 hostages in Gaza, including foreign nationals from 26 countries, according to Israeli military figures. The mass kidnappings took place on Oct. 7, when Hamas fighters attacked the border in a bloody, coordinated surprise attack that killed some 1,200 people, the largest such attack on Israel since 1948.

Prior to the deal, only a handful of hostages have been released.

Israel responded to the attack by declaring war on Hamas and imposing a siege on Gaza that cut off supplies of food, water, medicine and fuel, while launching a relentless air and ground attack. Some 12,700 people have been killed in Gaza since October 7, according to data from the Palestinian Ministry of Health in the West Bank, based on information from Hamas-led health authorities.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Matthew Chance, Oren Liebermann, Tamar Michaelis and MJ Lee contributed to this report.

Israel-Palestine conflictHamasHostages