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Israel-Hamas truce in Gaza extended two days under deal

MEDIATOR Qatar said that a truce between Israeli and Hamas forces in Gaza had been extended by two days, continuing a pause in seven weeks of warfare that has killed thousands and laid waste to the Palestinian enclave.

“An agreement has been reached to extend the humanitarian pause for an additional two days in the Gaza Strip,” a Qatari foreign ministry spokesperson said in a post on social media platform X.

There was no immediate comment from Israel, but a White House official confirmed an agreement had been reached.

Hamas also said it had agreed a two-day extension to the truce with Qatar and Egypt, who have been facilitating indirect negotiations between the two sides.

“An agreement has been reached with the brothers in Qatar and Egypt to extend the temporary humanitarian truce by two more days, with the same conditions as in the previous truce,” a Hamas official said in a phone call with Reuters.

None of the announcements specified how many hostages would be released, but earlier the head of Egypt’s State Information Service, Diaa Rashwan, had said the deal being negotiated would include the release of 20 Israeli hostages from among those seized by Hamas during its October 7 assault on southern Israel. In exchange 60 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails would be freed, he said.

The initial four-day truce was due to end on Monday night.

The release of 11 Israeli hostages and 33 Palestinians under the original ceasefire agreement was expected later on Monday.

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Hamas said it had received a list of Palestinians to be released by Israel, which it said included three female prisoners and 30 minors.

The White House said U.S. officials hope two American women would be among those freed from Gaza, where it believes eight or nine U.S. citizens are being held.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said it had notified the families of hostages due to be released on Monday, without specifying a number.

Netanyahu had said at the weekend that once the truce ended, “We will return with full force to achieve our goals: the elimination of Hamas; ensuring that Gaza does not return to what it was; and of course the release of all our hostages.”

A released Palestinian prisoner embraces a relative as he is received by his family in his house in Jerusalem, amid a hostages-prisoners swap deal between Hamas and Israel, November 26. REUTERS/Jamal Awad

HUMANITARIAN CRISIS

The truce agreed last week was the first halt in fighting in the seven weeks since Hamas attacked Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking about 240 hostages back into Gaza, according to Israeli tallies.

In response to that attack, Israel has bombarded the enclave and mounted a ground offensive in the north. More than 15,000 Palestinians have been killed, Gaza’s Hamas-run government says, and hundreds of thousands displaced.

Wide areas of the enclave have been flattened by Israeli air strikes and artillery bombardments, and a humanitarian crisis has unfolded as supplies of food, fuel, drinking water and medicine run out.

The truce agreement also allowed for aid trucks to enter Gaza.

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On Sunday, Hamas freed 17 people, including a 4-year-old Israeli-American girl, bringing the total number the militant group has released since Friday to 58, including foreigners. Israel freed 39 teenage Palestinian prisoners on Sunday, taking the total number of Palestinians freed under the truce to 117.

Under the terms of the current deal, Hamas is due to release in total of 50 Israeli women and children held hostage in Gaza. There is no limit in the deal on the number of foreigners it can release.

An Israeli government spokesperson said the total number of hostages still held in Gaza on Monday was 184, including 14 foreigners and 80 Israelis with dual nationality.

BRIEF RESPITE

Palestinians in Gaza had earlier said they were praying for an extension of the truce. Some were visiting homes reduced to rubble by weeks of intensive Israeli bombardment, while others queued for flour and other essential aid being delivered by the United Nations relief agency UNRWA.

Displaced Palestinian woman Um Mohammed said life was hard for people in the north of the enclave, which has been the focus of Israel’s ground invasion so far.

“People up there are searching for food. People want to live, to secure themselves for the coming days, because they are afraid, so they’re securing what they can,” she said. “And if you ask if they are restful or at peace, they are not.”

Yahel Shoham, 3, and Sharon Avigdori, released Israeli hostages, interact shortly after their arrival in Israel on November 25, after being held hostage by the Palestinian militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, at an unknown location in Israel, in this handout picture released by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office on November 26, 2023. Israeli Prime Minister’s Office/Handout via REUTERS
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By NIDAL AL-MUGHRABI and DAN WILLIAMS

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