Saturday , February 24 2024

Israel & Hamas agree to free more hostages & prisoners


JERUSALEM/ GAZA CITY: Israel and Hamas have agreed to extend their cease-fire until Wednesday, raising the prospect of further exchanges of militant-held hostages for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel and a longer halt to their deadliest and most destructive war.

Eleven Israeli women and children freed by Hamas entered Israel on Monday night after more than seven weeks in captivity in Gaza in the fourth swap under the original four-day truce. Thirty-three Palestinian prisoners released by Israel arrived early Tuesday in east Jerusalem and the West Bank town of Ramallah. The prisoners were greeted by loud cheers as their bus made its way through the streets of Ramallah.

The deal for two additional days of cease-fire raised hopes for further extensions, which would also allow more aid into Gaza, which has been battered by weeks of Israeli bombardment and a ground offensive that have driven three-quarters of the 2.3 million population from their homes but Israel says it remains committed to crushing Hamas’ military capabilities and ending its 16-year rule over Gaza. That would likely mean expanding a ground offensive from devastated northern Gaza to the south.

Roughly 240 hostages were captured by Hamas in its Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel that ignited the war. More than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed since the war began, according to the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry in Gaza. About 1,200 people have been killed in Israel, mostly during the initial incursion by Hamas.

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. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)

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