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Hostages released in Israel, Hamas cease-fire deal

Netanyahu has been adamant that his two goals — destroying Hamas and freeing all of the hostages — are being given equal weight.

“We are at war, and we will continue the war until we achieve all our goals,” he said in a speech before the release.

Meanwhile, Israel has been facing increasing global pressure over the fate of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

Israel has been conducting an intense bombardment and ground assault on the enclave, one that it says has been carefully targeted on Hamas but that has killed more than 14,500 people including some 5,000 children, according to the local health ministry.

On Friday, as the cease-fire appeared to be holding, hundreds of aid trucks entered the strip, and many Palestinians appeared to take the opportunity to travel back to their homes to assess the damage. This, despite leaflets dropped by Israel warning them not to reenter the north, the main battleground of the war.

“We are on our way to Khuza’a to see what happened to our home,” one woman, Suhaila Abu Al-Jal, told NBC News as she walked among crowds through the destroyed buildings in Khan Younis. Khuza’a is a neighborhood to the east of the city, near the border with Israel.

“We pray to God to give us patience,” she said. Because “we do not want this truce: We want it to last forever.”

The 150 Palestinians set to be freed by Israel are mostly from the West Bank and Jerusalem.

As Gaza descends further into a humanitarian disaster, the deal to pause the fighting was achieved after what one Biden administration official described as an “extremely excruciating five-week process.”

President Joe Biden was directly involved in the negotiations and received hourly updates on the progress, the administration official said. Among the early sticking points, they said, were Israel’s requirement that Hamas provide identifying information and “proof of life” for the hostages and Hamas’ demand that fuel enter Gaza.

A senior white house administration official and a senior Middle East official said that the release of two Americans, Judith Raanan and her teenage daughter, Natalie, was viewed as a “pilot” case that proved the effectiveness of the system that had been put into place to create a potential pipeline for hostages to be released.

Also, Netanyahu needed some convincing.

“Just a couple of days ago Biden came with the final deal saying a five day pause and Netanyahu said four days,” a senior Israeli government official told NBC News. “This deal was a Biden deal, not a Netanyahu deal.”

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