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GENEVA: The United Nations on Wednesday welcomed the deal between Israel and Hamas to free hostages and pause the fighting and bombardment in Gaza, but said much more needed to be done.

Israel and Hamas announced a deal on Wednesday allowing hostages and scores of Palestinian prisoners to be freed while offering besieged Gaza residents a four-day truce after weeks of all-out war.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres "welcomes the agreement reached by Israel and Hamas, with the mediation of Qatar supported by Egypt and the United States," a spokesman for the UN chief said in a statement.

"This is an important step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done."

Guterres said the UN would provide support for the implementation of the agreement.

In the first major diplomatic breakthrough in the bloodiest-ever Gaza war, Palestinian militants are set to release 50 women and children kidnapped during their October 7 raids into southern Israel.

The World Health Organization also welcomed the deal, but the UN health agency's chief said it would not end civilian suffering.

"We welcome the announcement of the Israel-Hamas agreement for 50 Israeli hostages to be released," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on X, formerly Twitter.

"My thoughts are with the families, some of whom my WHO colleagues and I met with in recent weeks. We also welcome the four-day pause in fighting that will allow more aid to be safely delivered into Gaza."

But he added that "this is not enough to end the suffering of civilians" and "that those still in captivity must receive any needed medical care".

"We continue to call for all hostages to be released. We also continue to call for a ceasefire so that civilians in Gaza can receive sustained, safe and scaled-up support for recovery."

The war started after Hamas on October 7 launched the attack in Israel's history that left around 1,200 people dead, most of them civilians, according to the Israeli government.

Muslim leaders in Beijing to push for Gaza ceasefire

Hamas and other groups also took an estimated 240 Israelis and foreigners hostage, among them elderly people and young children.

Israel declared war on Hamas, vowing to bring the hostages home and to destroy the group.

It launched a major bombing campaign and ground offensive in Gaza, which, according to the Gaza government, has killed 14,100 people, thousands of them children.

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