Gaza truce appears set to extend as Israel receives new list of captives

A truce in the Israel-Hamas war appeared to be extending into a fifth day as the two sides completed their fourth release of captives from Gaza in exchange for Palestinians held in Israeli jails under an original four-day truce deal while mediators said the process would continue.

Qatar, which along with Egypt has facilitated indirect talks between Israel and Hamas, said that there was an agreement to extend by two days the original four-day truce that was to expire on Monday.

“We have an extension … two more days,” Qatar’s Ambassador to the United Nations Alya Ahmed Saif Al-Thani told reporters after a closed-door UN Security Council meeting on Monday, saying both sides were to release more people.

“This is a very positive step,” Al-Thani said.

While the Israeli government had yet to officially confirm the truce extension by early on Tuesday morning, Israel’s Army Radio, citing the prime minister’s office, reported that a new list of captives – who are expected to be released later in the day – had been received.

Israel has said it would extend the ceasefire by one day for every 10 additional captives released by Hamas.

Local news website Axios reported the latest list contained the names of 10 Israeli captives. There was no immediate comment from the Israeli prime minister’s office.

Israel on Monday said 11 Israelis had been returned to the country from the Gaza Strip, bringing to 69 the total number of Israeli and foreign captives released by Hamas since Friday under the truce.

The Israel Prison Service said 33 Palestinian prisoners were also released on Monday from Israel’s Ofer prison in the West Bank and from a detention centre in Jerusalem, bringing the total number of Palestinians it has freed since Friday to 150.

The freed Palestinian prisoners were greeted by loud cheers as the Red Cross bus they were travelling in made its way through the streets of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

The original truce agreement also allowed more aid trucks into Gaza, where the civilian population faces shortages of food, fuel, drinking water and medicine.

While describing the extension of the truce as “a glimpse of hope and humanity”, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said two more days was not enough time to meet Gaza’s aid needs.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said in a report on Monday that the four-day pause in hostilities had allowed humanitarian aid groups, particularly Red Crescent workers, to provide assistance to people in desperate need throughout Gaza where 1.8 million people are internally displaced.

Palestinians walk among the rubble, as they inspect houses destroyed in Israeli strikes during the conflict, amid the temporary truce between Hamas and Israel, at Khan Younis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip November 27, 2023. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
Palestinians walk among the rubble of houses destroyed in Israeli strikes in the Khan Younis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on November 27, 2023 [Mohammed Salem/Reuters]

More than 14,800 people have been killed in Gaza – including some 10,000 women and children – since Israel launched its attacks on the Palestinian enclave following Hamas’s October 7 raid on southern Israel, which killed about 1,200 people.

Israel’s intense bombing of the densely populated Gaza Strip has also resulted in 46,000 homes destroyed and more than 234,000 damaged –about 60 percent of the entire housing stock in Gaza, the UN said in the report.

Despite the apparent extension of the truce for two additional days, Israel remains committed to crushing Hamas militarily and has warned that its war on Gaza will resume.

Resumption will likely see Israeli forces expand their air, land and sea offensive from the devastated northern Gaza to the south of the enclave where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have fled seeking refuge.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies