Qatar said on Monday that mediators had reached an agreement to extend the temporary truce between Israel and Hamas for two days to allow the release of more hostages being held in Gaza.
The announcement of a four-day extension of the original pause in the war between Israel and Hamas, which was scheduled to end on Monday, came after Benjamin Netanyahu’s government faced increasing domestic and international pressure to provide more time to release the hostages.
The Israeli army said on Monday evening that Hamas had released 11 more hostages. Qatar said that Israel released 33 other Palestinian prisoners.
Majid Al-Ansari, spokesman for the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs, announced the agreement “to extend the humanitarian calm for an additional two days in the Gaza Strip” as part of his country’s mediation between Israel and Hamas.
The Palestinian movement confirmed that it agreed to extend the cessation of fighting for two days “under the same conditions as the previous truce.” Israel has not yet commented on the deal.
Ansari did not specify the number of hostages who would be released within the next 48 hours. But negotiators said earlier that if the ceasefire was extended for two days, Hamas would release another 20 women and children detained in Gaza.
In return, Israel will release 60 other Palestinian women and children detained in Israeli prisons.
Under the ceasefire agreement brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States last week, Hamas agreed to the gradual release of fifty women and children detained in Gaza over a period of four days. Israel, in turn, said that it would allow more aid to enter the besieged Strip and would release 150 Palestinian women and children detained in Israeli prisons.
Hamas and other militants captured about 240 civilians and soldiers during the deadly attack launched by the movement on October 7 on southern Israel.
The United States welcomed the extension of the truce between Israel and Hamas and said that it would like to see the truce extended beyond the additional two days.
US President Joe Biden said in a statement: “We will not stop until all hostages held by Hamas terrorists are released.”
He added that the cessation of hostilities, as well as enabling the release of hostages, also facilitated a “significant increase” in humanitarian aid in Gaza.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to visit Israel and the occupied West Bank later this week.
A US State Department official said that Blinken “will stress the need to continue the increased flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza, secure the release of all hostages, and improve the protection of civilians in Gaza.”
The official added that he would also discuss the future of Gaza and the need to establish an independent Palestinian state.
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told the Financial Times on Sunday that in order to extend the temporary truce between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian movement will have to locate women and children held by other militants, civilians and gangs in Gaza. Gaza.
He said that Israel provided Qatar with a list of more than 90 women and children who were captured during the Hamas attack on October 7.
Sheikh Mohammed said that when the original hostage agreement was reached last week, it was agreed that 50 women and children would be released because that was the number Hamas said it had been able to secure.
An official familiar with the negotiations said that Hamas was confident of its ability to use the initial four-day pause to locate 20 other women and children being held hostage.
The official added: “The assumption is that the majority of them were being held by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement,” referring to a smaller armed group.
“The hope now is that Hamas will be able to locate more hostages during the two-day extension.”
Izzat al-Rishq, a Hamas official, told Al-Arabi TV that the movement is “working to search for the rest of the missing people.” [hostages]”.
“We are ready to negotiate the seized occupation [Israeli] Soldiers, but this file has not been opened yet.” “These soldiers have a different situation, and Netanyahu knows that.”
Israeli officials said on Monday evening that 11 more hostages arrived in Israel from Gaza, including three women and eight children.
Qatar said that among the eleven were three French citizens, three Germans and six Argentines.
Qatar also said that the 33 Palestinian prisoners released by Israel on Monday included three women and 30 children.
The latest release means that 50 women and children have been freed from captivity in Gaza. Israel, in turn, released 150 Palestinian women and children from Israeli prisons.
The success of the delicate exchanges of hostages for prisoners raised the national mood in Israel and raised hopes that the deal could be extended.
The hostage release received extensive media coverage in Israel, while thousands of Palestinians gathered every evening outside Ofer Prison, between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, to celebrate the release of the prisoners and strengthen Hamas’s political position.
Speaking at a celebration of the Israeli hostage’s release, Noam Alon, whose girlfriend Inbar Haiman was kidnapped from the Nova music festival on October 7, vowed to continue pressing for the release of more hostages “at any cost.”
“We expect everyone to be released, and we want our government to do everything to continue the agreement,” he said.
Netanyahu said on Sunday that he would “welcome” the prospect of more hostages being released, but also stressed that Israel was ready to resume hostilities against Hamas.
Israeli officials believe that Hamas will seek a larger number of prisoners and a higher rank for each hostage, in addition to the initial agreement.
Israeli forces took control of vast swaths of northern Gaza through an aerial bombardment and ground invasion that killed at least 14,800 people, according to Palestinian officials, and caused a humanitarian crisis.
About 1,200 people were killed during a Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7, according to Israeli officials.
Additional reporting by Heba Saleh in Cairo and Raya Chalabi in Beirut
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