Israel-Hamas truce extended as more hostages freed

Israel and Hamas have agreed to extend their truce for another day, minutes before it was due to expire. The temporary ceasefire, which has already been extended twice, was extended for a seventh day following mediation with Qatar. This extension comes as more hostages have been released by Hamas in exchange for Palestinians held in prisons and aid deliveries into Gaza. So far, 102 Israeli hostages have been freed, while 210 Palestinians prisoners have been released. About 140 Israelis remain in captivity.
The extension of the truce was announced by Israel’s military, who stated that it was being extended “in light of the mediators’ efforts to continue the process of releasing the hostages and subject to the terms of the framework”. The prime minister’s office confirmed the extension, revealing that they had received a new list of women and children hostages. The details of the agreement were not made public.
The initial truce was set to last for four days, but each extension of the ceasefire depends on the release of more hostages. Israel has stated that the pause in fighting would be extended by one day for every 10 additional hostages released. This strategy is said to encourage Hamas to release more hostages in order to secure longer periods of calm.
The truce has been praised by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who stated that it was “producing results” and should continue. He highlighted the positive development of hostages being reunited with their families and the increase in humanitarian assistance reaching innocent civilians in Gaza. However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has maintained that the war will resume once the truce ends, stating that “there is no way we are not going back to fighting until the end”. Netanyahu’s firm stance is supported by the entire cabinet, government, soldiers, and people of Israel.
The extension of the truce comes as the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned of an “epic humanitarian catastrophe” in the Gaza Strip. Over the past seven weeks, more than 1.8 million people have fled their homes, with 60% of them seeking shelter in UN facilities. The UN estimates that 156 UNRWA facilities are providing shelter to displaced Palestinians. However, the conditions in these shelters have raised concerns, as assessments conducted by the World Health Organization have revealed outbreaks of infectious diseases, particularly among children.
Since the truce began, Israeli air strikes have temporarily halted, providing relief for the people of Gaza. The conflict, which began on October 7th when Hamas launched a cross-border attack, has resulted in the deaths of 1,200 people and the kidnapping of hundreds. Israel’s air and ground operation into Gaza has caused significant destruction, with an estimated 15,000 people killed, 40% of whom are children. Large areas in the north of the Strip have been demolished or severely damaged.
While the truce extension signifies a temporary respite, the situation remains delicate. The release of more hostages and the continuation of aid deliveries into Gaza are key factors in maintaining the ceasefire. It is crucial for the international community to support mediation efforts and provide ongoing assistance to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Further diplomatic efforts and negotiations are needed to ensure a lasting peace for the region.