July 18, 2024

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Israel and Hamas extend ceasefire to keep trading hostages for prisoners

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Israel and Hamas agreed to continue a fragile truce for at least another day to keep trading hostages in Gaza for Palestinian prisoners, as US secretary of state Antony Blinken landed in the region to try to aid the release of more captives.

Qatar, which is mediating the pause in hostilities, said the two sides had “reached an agreement to extend the humanitarian pause in the Gaza Strip for an additional day under the existing conditions”.

The agreement, announced by both sides minutes before the temporary ceasefire was set to expire, came after Hamas sent Israel a list of women and children it would free on Thursday. About 100 people have been released by Hamas and more than 200 Palestinian prisoners released by Israel over the past week.

“This process is producing results,” Blinken said on Thursday as he met Israeli President Isaac Herzog. “It’s important, and we hope it can continue.”

Blinken told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel must account for humanitarian and civilian needs in southern Gaza before proceeding with its military campaign, and should hold extremist settlers in the occupied West Bank to account, the state department said.

The 24-hour extension was less than the length that mediators had been hoping to secure, underscoring the fragility of the truce agreement as Hamas, which runs Gaza, appeared to be rushing to locate remaining civilian women and children held in the strip to release to Israel.

The militant group initially offered to free seven women and children, as well as handing over the bodies of three who had died. Israel rejected the offer but accepted a compromise that could lead to up to 10 hostages being freed on Thursday.

“People should read it as a positive sign,” said an official briefed on the talks. “It was the perfect excuse for Israelis to go back to war, because Hamas wasn’t…

2023-11-30 09:02:37

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