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Hope for Israel-Hamas cease-fire, but no relief yet for Gaza's displaced, or for Israeli hostages' families

Families of hostages urge deal on release
Families of hostages held by Hamas urge leaders to make deal on release 02:55

The dizzying death toll in the Gaza Strip — over 13,000 people, according to officials in the Hamas-run Palestinian territory — and the increasingly dire situation for more than 2 million civilians trapped in the enclave have fueled mounting calls for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war, and representatives who had been working around the clock for weeks in Qatar announced an agreement Tuesday. Israel's government approved the deal Tuesday evening, which, if and when it's implemented as expected later this week, should see at least 50 hostages — women and children — released by Hamas during an initial four day cessation of fighting.  

According to a U.S. senior administration official, three Americans were expected to be among the 50 women and children released by Hamas. The agreement is expected to be implemented 24 hours after it was finalized — which would be early Thursday morning, local time, according to officials.

Hamas said the terms of the deal include the release of 150 Palestinian women and children held in Israeli prisons, though Israel has not confirmed that number. 

Israel launched its blistering offensive against Hamas in Gaza in response to the group's bloody Oct. 7 terror attack, which killed some 1,200 people and saw the militants seize around 240 hostages.  

The latest on Israel-Hamas hostage release negotiations 04:27

But even with the deal agreed, there was no immediate respite for thousands of families who have been displaced from their homes in Gaza, now living in squalid conditions in a war zone, nor for the dozens of Israeli families desperate to get their kidnapped loved ones back.

CBS News producer Marwan al-Ghoul met displaced Palestinian families as they huddled in what little shelter they could find in southern Gaza, their children wet and shaking from the cold, shielded only by tents.

"If they wanted to displace us from our homes and land, why they didn't build camps for us?" one mother asked about the military operation that Israel insists is targeting only Hamas and other extremists.

"We haven't had food for three days, not a piece of bread. We don't even have water," the woman told Al-Ghoul as rain pounded the tent, filling it and the ground all around with muddy water. The rain has fallen for days, and it's getting colder, leaving countless families miserable and vulnerable as they wait for any news of a cease-fire that could, at least, enable a rush of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

APTOPIX Israel Palestinians
Palestinians displaced by the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip seek cover from a winter rainfall at a U.N. camp in the southern town of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Nov. 19, 2023. Fatima Shbair/AP

Across the border in Israel, the families of about 240 hostages taken by Hamas were also holding their breath for a deal Tuesday.

There are children, even toddlers and babies among those believed to be held in Gaza by Hamas and possibly other groups, and some of their families gathered in front of a United Nations' office in Israel Monday to demand that someone do something to rescue their kids. With no certainty about any potential hostage release, they asked Israel's government, the U.S., even the U.N. — anyone willing to listen — to bring their children home.

Hadas Kalderon, whose mother was killed on Oct. 7 and whose 12-year-old son Erez and 16-year-old daughter Sahar were captured, was at the demonstration, knowing that every second without a deal could prove lethal.

She told CBS News she'd received no word at all about the fate of her children since they were abducted by Hamas, which has long been designated a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S. and many other nations.

"I don't have information," Kalderon said, adding that any information she and the other families did receive seemed, "not relevant, because every moment, it can be changed. One moment, you're alive. One moment, you're not here. It doesn't matter."

Hostage Advocates Rally Outside Unicef Offices In Tel Aviv
Parents and relatives of children kidnapped on Oct. 7, along with supporters, take part in a demonstration outside the UNICEF office in Tel Aviv, Israel, on World Children's Day, Nov. 20, 2023, to demand the return of their loved ones seized by Hamas. Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty

With Israeli airstrikes continuing across Gaza and the whereabouts of the hostages in the densely populated enclave unclear, the mother said she was "worried about everything," from disease spreading amid the dire humanitarian conditions on the ground, to bombs falling from the air.

"They are in the middle of a war. How come?" she asked. "Of course, I don't sleep. I don't eat."

She said the politicians involved in the cease-fire and hostage negotiations were "morally and politically obligated to bring them home soon as possible… The government, the leaders, have to sign — to make the deal. Come on, make the deal!"

Heavy fighting reported near second Gaza hospital 05:39

While senior Hamas officials said the terms of a cease-fire agreement had been agreed, there was no word from Israeli officials on whether a final deal had been signed off on by the government, and any prospective agreement between the warring sides could potentially be derailed by events on the ground in the tinderbox region.

Iran-backed groups, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, just across Israel's northern border, and the Houthi movement in Yemen, have threatened for weeks to join the war. On Tuesday, the Hezbollah-linked TV network Al-Mayadeen said two of its journalists and a third civilian were killed in "a cowardly Israeli attack in South Lebanon."

There were also reports that Israel had struck a civilian car in southern Lebanon, killing at least one other person.

In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces said its aircraft had "identified and struck three armed terrorist cells in the area of the border with Lebanon" on Tuesday after "terrorists fired mortar shells at an IDF post in northern Israel."

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