Israel and Hamas are close to agreeing an extension to Gaza truce which has just hours left to run: Terror group ‘want another four days but Israelis prefer ‘day-by-day’ deal’

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Israel and Hamas are close to agreeing an extension to their Gaza truce deal which has just hours left to run, but are still discussing the details.

It is understood that Egyptian, Qatari and US negotiators are still debating the length of the extension and which prisoners would be freed under it, three Egyptian security sources said, according to Reuters.

Palestinian group Hamas declared earlier it was seeking a four-day extension while Israel wanted day-by-day extensions, with negotiations continuing over which Palestinian prisoners would be freed, the sources said. 

A statement released last night by Hamas called for ‘an extension of the truce after the conclusion of the four-day period, through serious efforts to increase the number of those released from captivity as stipulated in the humanitarian ceasefire agreement.’ 

The fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hamas endured last night as the Palestinian group freed 17 more hostages from captivity in the Gaza Strip – including 14 Israelis and the first American – as Tel-Aviv in turn handed over 39 Palestinian prisoners.

This exchange of prisoners – the third under a largely successful four-day truce – gave way to wild scenes of utter jubilation on both sides.

Israel and Hamas are close to agreeing an extension to their Gaza truce deal which has just hours left to run, but are still discussing the details. Pictured: An Israeli tank stands in a position, while Palestinians fleeing north Gaza move southward during a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas, near Gaza City November 27

Israel and Hamas are close to agreeing an extension to their Gaza truce deal which has just hours left to run, but are still discussing the details. Pictured: An Israeli tank stands in a position, while Palestinians fleeing north Gaza move southward during a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas, near Gaza City November 27

Oria Brodutch jumps onto the arms of his father, Avihai Brodutch, shortly after they were reunited in Israel on November 26

Oria Brodutch jumps onto the arms of his father, Avihai Brodutch, shortly after they were reunited in Israel on November 26

Palestinians fleeing north Gaza move southward as ambulances head towards north Gaza during a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas, near Gaza City, November 27

Palestinians fleeing north Gaza move southward as ambulances head towards north Gaza during a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas, near Gaza City, November 27

Captured Israeli children were scooped up in the arms of their overjoyed family members, while Palestinian men freed from Israeli jails kissed their mothers and celebrated wildly in street parades.

A fourth exchange is expected today, during which a total of 50 hostages and 150 Palestinian prisoners are set to be freed.

International mediators led by the US, Egypt and Qatar are now trying to extend the ceasefire that began Friday to allow for the exchange of more hostages as war weary Gazans seek more reprieve from Israeli bombs. 

Pressure was mounting on both parties to agree to the extension on Monday.

US President Joe Biden said the pause should continue to allow humanitarian relief into Gaza and more Israeli hostages to return home to their families.

Senior European Union and NATO officials added their voices to his call. 

NATO’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg also weighed in, ahead of a meeting of allied foreign ministers in Brussels.

‘I call for an extension of the pause. This would allow for much needed relief to the people of Gaza and the release of more hostages,’ he told journalists.

European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said the extension of the current truce in Gaza is within reach, and that it would allow international community to work on a political solution to the conflict.

He said that the Palestinian Authority needs to regain control of Gaza from Hamas, offering a ‘better and viable’ alternative to it.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was resolute in his intentions to crush Hamas, declaring his forces would resume its offensive ‘with all of our might’ once the truce expires.

Raz Asher (left), four, her two-year-old sister Aviv (right) and their mother Doron, 34, reunite with their father and husband Yoni at the Schneider Children's Medical Center

Raz Asher (left), four, her two-year-old sister Aviv (right) and their mother Doron, 34, reunite with their father and husband Yoni at the Schneider Children’s Medical Center

Keren Munder, 54, and her son Ohad Munder, age 9, with his father and a family member at the Schneider Children's Medical Center. Keren and Ohad were kidnapped by Hamas militants on October 7

Keren Munder, 54, and her son Ohad Munder, age 9, with his father and a family member at the Schneider Children’s Medical Center. Keren and Ohad were kidnapped by Hamas militants on October 7

Six-year-old Emelia Aloni and her mother Danielle reunite with their family at the Schneider Children's Medical Center

Six-year-old Emelia Aloni and her mother Danielle reunite with their family at the Schneider Children’s Medical Center

A group of Israelis celebrate as a helicopter carrying hostages released from the Gaza Strip lands at the helipad of the Schneider Children's Medical Center in Petah Tikva, Israel

A group of Israelis celebrate as a helicopter carrying hostages released from the Gaza Strip lands at the helipad of the Schneider Children’s Medical Center in Petah Tikva, Israel

Israel's military operates in the Gaza Strip during a temporary truce between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in this handout picture released on November 27, 2023

Israel’s military operates in the Gaza Strip during a temporary truce between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in this handout picture released on November 27, 2023

The Israeli military has ordered Palestinians not to return to the north or approach within a kilometre (around a half-mile) of the border fence as they continue military operations

The Israeli military has ordered Palestinians not to return to the north or approach within a kilometre (around a half-mile) of the border fence as they continue military operations

In this handout picture taken and released by the Israeli Prime Minister's Office on November 26, 2023 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets soldiers at an undisclosed location in the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu told soldiers in the Gaza Strip on November 26 that Israel's efforts would continue "until victory"

In this handout picture taken and released by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office on November 26, 2023 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets soldiers at an undisclosed location in the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu told soldiers in the Gaza Strip on November 26 that Israel’s efforts would continue ‘until victory’

A Palestinian prisoner hugs his mother after being released from an Israeli jail in exchange for Israeli hostages released by Hamas from the Gaza Strip, in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on November 26, 2023

A Palestinian prisoner hugs his mother after being released from an Israeli jail in exchange for Israeli hostages released by Hamas from the Gaza Strip, in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on November 26, 2023

Palestinian prisoner Khalil Zama' (C) gestures after being released from an Israeli jail in exchange for Israeli hostages released by Hamas from the Gaza Strip

Palestinian prisoner Khalil Zama’ (C) gestures after being released from an Israeli jail in exchange for Israeli hostages released by Hamas from the Gaza Strip

 

Ahead of the latest hostage release, Netanyahu donned body armour and visited the Gaza Strip, where he spoke with troops.

‘At the end of the day we will return every one,’ he said of the hostages, adding that ‘we are continuing until the end, until victory. Nothing will stop us.’ It was not clear where he went inside Gaza.

The Israeli Prime Minister had previously told Biden he would be willing to extend the truce with Hamas an extra day for every 10 hostages that are released.

But after the Qatari-brokered deal was agreed last week, Netanyahu said the goals to ‘eliminate Hamas and get the hostages back’ would continue unhindered irrespective of when the truce finally comes to a close. 

It comes as Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, who led the effort to broker the ceasefire, told the Financial Times that an extension of the deal hinges on Hamas’ ability to locate more hostages, whom he said were being held by ‘civilians and gangs’.

‘If they get additional women and children, there will be an extension,’ Sheikh Mohammed said. ‘We don’t yet have any clear information how many they can find because . . . one of the purposes [of the pause] is they [Hamas] will have time to search for the rest of the missing people.’

Most hostages freed yesterday were handed over directly to Israel, waving to a cheering crowd as they arrived at an air force base. Others left through Egypt.

Israel’s army said one was airlifted to a hospital, and the director of Soroka Medical Center said Elma Avraham, 84, was in life-threatening condition as ‘a result of an extended period of time when an elderly woman was not taken care of as needed.’

The youngest hostage released was Abigail Edan, a 4-year-old girl and dual Israeli-American citizen whose parents were killed in the Hamas attack that started the war on Oct. 7.

‘What she endured was unthinkable,’ Biden said of the first American freed under the truce. He did not know her condition and did not provide updates on other American hostages.

In all, nine children ages 17 and younger were on the list, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office. Three more Thai nationals were released.

Separately, Hamas said it released a Russian hostage ‘in response to the efforts of Russian President Vladimir Putin.’

The three Thai nationals were undergoing health checks at a medical centre in Israel, bringing the total number of Thai hostages released to 17, Thailand’s Foreign Ministry said. 

Fifty-eight hostages have now been released by Hamas. One was freed by Israeli forces and two were found dead inside Gaza. 

The freed hostages have mostly stayed out of the public eye. Hospitals said their physical condition has largely been good, but little is publicly known about the conditions of their captivity. 

Meanwhile, the Palestinian prisoners released by Tel-Aviv were children and young men aged 15-19, most of whom had been arrested on charges of public disorder, property damage and in some cases causing or threatening physical harm to Israeli officers by throwing stones and Molotov cocktails. 

Many Palestinians view prisoners held by Israel, including those implicated in attacks, as heroes resisting occupation.

Palestinian prisoner Khalil Zama' (L) hugs a relative after being released from an Israeli jail

Palestinian prisoner Khalil Zama’ (L) hugs a relative after being released from an Israeli jail

Palestinians prisoners cheer among supporters after being released from Israeli jails in exchange for hostages released by Hamas from the Gaza Strip, in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank early on November 26, 2023

Palestinians prisoners cheer among supporters after being released from Israeli jails in exchange for hostages released by Hamas from the Gaza Strip, in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank early on November 26, 2023

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) meets soldiers at undisclosed location in the Gaza Strip

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) meets soldiers at undisclosed location in the Gaza Strip

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Gaza Strip, during a temporary truce between Hamas and Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Gaza Strip, during a temporary truce between Hamas and Israel

The ongoing ceasefire is the first significant pause in seven weeks of war, marked by the deadliest Israeli-Palestinian violence in decades. More than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed, roughly two-thirds of them women and minors, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza, which does not differentiate between civilians and combatants. 

The war has claimed the lives of more than 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians killed in the initial attack.

The pause has given some respite to Gaza’s 2.3 million people, still reeling from relentless Israeli bombardment that has driven three-quarters of the population from their homes and levelled residential areas. Rocket fire from Gaza militants into Israel also went silent.

War-weary Palestinians in northern Gaza, where the offensive has been focused, made their way through entire city blocks gutted by airstrikes to flee, but many have been turned back by Israeli troops while trying to return to check their homes.

‘They open fire on anyone approaching from the south,’ said Rami Hazarein, who fled Gaza City.

The Israeli military has ordered Palestinians not to return to the north or approach within a kilometre (around a half-mile) of the border fence as they continue military operations.  

The United Nations says the truce made it possible to scale up the delivery of food, water and medicine to the largest volume since the start of the war, but it calls the 160 to 200 trucks a day ‘hardly enough.’

It was able to deliver fuel for the first time since the war began and to reach areas in the north for the first time in a month. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said 50 Egyptian aid trucks crossed through Israeli checkpoints to reach Gaza City and northern areas Sunday.

A Palestinian man gathers belongings amidst debris in Gaza City on November 26, 2023, on the third day of a truce between Israel and Hamas

A Palestinian man gathers belongings amidst debris in Gaza City on November 26, 2023, on the third day of a truce between Israel and Hamas

Friday’s ceasefire came into effect shortly after the death of Ahmed al-Ghandour, a Hamas official who was in charge of northern Gaza and a member of its top military council. He is the highest-ranking militant known to have been killed in the fighting. 

Both Hamas and Israel’s military confirmed the death.

Al-Ghandour had survived at least three Israeli attempts on his life and was involved in a cross-border attack in 2006 in which Palestinian militants captured an Israeli soldier, according to the Counter Extremism Project, an advocacy group based in Washington.

Hamas said he was killed along with three other senior militants, including Ayman Siam, who Israel says was in charge of Hamas´ rocket-firing unit. The Israeli military mentioned both men in a Nov. 16 statement, saying it had targeted an underground complex where Hamas leaders were hiding.

Daily Mail

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