Israel and Hamas agree to prolong ceasefire
Israel and Hamas have agreed to extend the current ceasefire in Gaza by another day, following the exchange of dozens more captives on Wednesday, the Qatari Foreign Ministry has announced. The extension was reportedly finalized just minutes before the previous truce was due to end at 7am local time on Thursday.
According to diplomats in Doha, who have acted as mediators, the conditions for prolonging the ceasefire are the same as for the previous six days. These include an exchange of ten Israeli hostages and 30 Palestinian prisoners, as well as the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza.
“In light of the mediators’ efforts to continue the process of releasing the hostages and subject to the terms of the framework, the operational pause will continue,” the Israeli military said in a statement. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office confirmed that Israeli authorities had a “list of women and children [to be freed] in accordance with the terms of the agreement.”
Prior to the agreement being reached, Hamas claimed that Israel had rejected its proposed list of hostages to be freed, which included seven living captives and the bodies of three others, who according to the Palestinian militant group had been killed in Israeli airstrikes.
Both sides had insisted that they were ready to resume fighting, although Israel later said Hamas had submitted a revised list, which overcame the impasse.
On Wednesday, Hamas released 16 hostages – ten Israeli citizens, two Russian and four Thai nationals – while Israel set 30 Palestinian prisoners free, all of whom were women and children. The hostages released by Hamas were handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and taken to Israel.
The Russian and Thai nationals were freed outside of the framework of the agreement between Israel and Hamas. Out of the ten Israeli former abductees, five hold dual citizenship, including that of the US, the Netherlands, and Germany.
Hamas has released nearly 100 hostages since the Israeli government initially approved the swap deal last Tuesday. According to Israeli estimates, 145 people remain in the hands of the Palestinian militant group.
Meanwhile, on Thursday morning two gunmen opened fire at people at a bus stop in Jerusalem in a suspected terrorist attack. According to local media, the shooting claimed three lives, with several more people injured.
The assailants were shot and killed by Israeli security forces. They were later identified as two brothers who were Hamas members, and who had previously been jailed for terrorism-related offenses.