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Israel-Hamas truce in Gaza extended by two days, says mediator Qatar | Israel-Palestine conflict News

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A humanitarian pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas will extend by two days, mediator Qatar and Hamas have said, hours before an initial four-day truce in Gaza was set to expire.

“The State of Qatar announces that, as part of the ongoing mediation, an agreement has been reached to extend the humanitarian truce for an additional two days in the Gaza Strip,” Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Majed Al-Ansari said on X, formerly Twitter, on Monday.

Qatar, the United States and Egypt have engaged in intense negotiations to establish and prolong the truce in Gaza, which mediators had said was designed to be broadened and expanded.

Over the course of the initial truce, a total 50 civilian hostages, all women and children, were expected to be freed by Hamas.

In exchange, 150 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel were to be released and more humanitarian aid allowed into Gaza.

Ghazi Hamad, a Hamas official, said the deal was designed to include the possibility of extending the truce.

“It [the possibility of an extension] was written in the agreement, that if Hamas gives more hostages, there will be more days of the ceasefire,” he told Al Jazeera.

“We have now agreed to release more hostages and extend the agreement for two days. This is good news for our people, especially the people of Gaza.

“I hope we can extend it until we reach the end of this war. We want to end the war. We are in a temporary ceasefire but we are trying to extend it. There is lots of support from Qatar, Egypt and many Western governments to end this catastrophe,” he said.

During the first three days of the truce, 39 Israeli hostages were freed by the armed group in exchange for 117 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails as part of the deal between the two sides.

As a result of parallel negotiations led by the Gulf state, 17 Thais, one Filipino and one dual Russian-Israeli national have also been released by Hamas.

Hamas fighters seized around 240 hostages when they stormed from Gaza into southern Israel on October 7 and killed more than 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials.

After the attack, Israel launched a relentless bombing campaign and ground offensive in Gaza, killing more than 15,000 people, including more than 5,000 children, according to Palestinian officials.

Reporting from Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, Al Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim said families across the occupied Palestinian territories would be relieved by the extension.

“This is a source of relief for many families, not just the families of prisoners, but also other people in the occupied West Bank who are watching in horror images coming out of the besieged Gaza Strip.

“We are not just referring to the killings and children who’ve lost their lives, but also to the people who have been displaced, to the wounded, to the many hungry and in a very difficult situation.

“We are also talking about families of prisoners. So far we do not have a list,” she said, adding that according to a Hamas official, the extension will see the release of at least four more Palestinian prisoners.”

Ahead of the expected release, Hamas said it received the list of names of prisoners to be released on Monday, according to a statement for group on its Telegram channel.

The list includes three female prisoners whom it named, and another 30 minors the movement said it would identify later on.

Meanwhile, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it had informed families of the identities of hostages to be released on the last day of the initial four-day truce.

As part of the truce deal, Hamas has so far released 39 Israeli hostages, with more expected later Monday. Israel has freed 117 Palestinian prisoners under the terms of the agreement. In parallel, 19 foreign nationals have also been released by Palestinian militants.

Warm welcome

Commenting on the development, the White House welcomed the extension of the humanitarian pause in Gaza, adding that it hopes Americans will be among the 20 hostages to be released next as eight to nine US citizens are believed to still be among those being held.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby, speaking to reporters at a news briefing, said conditioning aid to Israel is a worthwhile thought but that US President Joe Biden believes his approach is working.

Also welcoming the news, the United Nations chief hailed the two-day extension of the truce as a “glimpse of hope and humanity,” but warned it was not enough time to meet the aid needs of the Gaza Strip.

“I strongly hope that this will enable us to increase even more the humanitarian aid to the people in Gaza that (are) suffering so much – knowing that even with that additional amount of time, it will be impossible to satisfy all the dramatic needs of the population,” Guterres told reporters.

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