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Talks intensify to extend Israel-Hamas truce after more hostages, prisoners freed

Talks intensify to extend Israel-Hamas truce after more hostages, prisoners freed
Smoke rises from Gaza City in the distance as an Israeli tank heads towards Gaza on Nov. 22, 2023 in Southern Israel.

GAZA/JERUSALEM, Nov 30 (Reuters) - International pressure grew on Israel and Hamas to extend a truce on Thursday after another exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners and humanitarian aid was delivered to the besieged Gaza Strip.

  • Israel releases 30 Palestinian prisoners as part of truce swap
  • Jordan to host international conference to coordinate Gaza aid

By Nidal al-Mughrabi, Mohammad Salem and Emily Rose

On Wednesday, 16 more hostages were released by Hamas on the final day of a two-day truce extension, which is set to expire early on Thursday. Israel’s prison service said it released 30 more Palestinians from its jails in a sixth round of swaps. The exchanges are a core component of the arrangement, which was initially set at four days.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Tel Aviv early on Thursday, his third trip to the region since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, and was set to meet with Israeli leaders to discuss extending the temporary truce and boosting humanitarian aid into Gaza.

“Looking at the next couple of days, we’ll be focused on … doing what we can to extend the pause so that we continue to get more hostages out and more humanitarian assistance in,” Blinken said at a stop in Brussels.

Citing Israeli officials, Israeli media reported that the military would resume the attack on Gaza at 7 a.m. (0500 GMT) if the government did not receive a list of hostages to be released that met its criteria by that time. Israel, according to the reports, is demanding that at least 10 hostages be released on Thursday and that women and children be prioritised.

Jordan on Thursday will host a conference attended by the main U.N., regional and international relief agencies to coordinate aid to Gaza, official media said.

The six-day truce has brought the first respite to Gaza in seven weeks. During that time, Israel bombarded the territory in response to a rampage by Hamas gunmen on Oct. 7, when Israel says gunmen killed 1,200 people and took 240 hostages.

Israel has sworn to annihilate Hamas, which rules Gaza. Health authorities in Gaza say Israel’s bombardment has so far killed more than 15,000 Gazans.

 

BIDEN DETERMINED TO SECURE RELEASE OF ALL HOSTAGES

U.S. President Joe Biden was determined to secure the release of all hostages held by Hamas in Gaza after American Liat Beinin was freed on Wednesday, the White House said in a statement.

Some 97 hostages have been freed since the start of the truce, according to a Reuters tally. The Israeli military says 145 hostages remain in Gaza.

On Wednesday night, two Russian citizens and four Thai citizens were released outside the framework of the agreement while the 10 Israeli citizens freed included five dual nationals, officials said. They were a Dutch dual citizen, who is also a minor, three German dual citizens and one U.S. dual citizen.

The pause and release of hostages and prisoners was mediated by Qatar, another country pushing for an extended truce.

“Qatar remains hopeful that the progress made in recent days can be sustained, and a further extension to the humanitarian pause agreement can be reached,” Majed Al-Ansari, spokesperson for Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a statement.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday warned that the Gaza Strip was in the midst of an “epic humanitarian catastrophe,” and he and others called for a ceasefire to replace the temporary truce.

“Intense negotiations are taking place to prolong the truce – which we strongly welcome – but we believe we need a true humanitarian ceasefire,” he told a meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

China’s foreign ministry said in a position paper on the conflict that the U.N. Security Council should respond to “the general call of the international community that a comprehensive ceasefire be put in place to stop the fighting.”

Two Palestinian officials told Reuters that talks were continuing over a possible extension of the truce, but no agreement had yet been reached.

A Palestinian official said negotiators were hammering out whether Israeli men would be released on different terms than the exchange of three Palestinian detainees for each Israeli hostage that has applied to the women and children.

The handover of hostages was overshadowed by an unconfirmed claim by Hamas, the largest militant group in Gaza, that a family of Israeli hostages including the youngest hostage, 10-month-old Kfir Bibas, had been killed during earlier Israeli bombardment.

 

(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Cairo; Mohammed Salem and Roleen Tafakji in Gaza and Emily Rose in Jerusalem;Writing by Grant McCool; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Cornay Bester says:

    While the hostages lived in fear, hunger
    humiliation and cold, the prisoners was safe, fed, respected and warm. Also, the hostages were demanded to smile and wave at the media while Gazans civilians was and stil is calling for their deaths. No such attention was forced on the prisoners.

    • Vas K says:

      Exactly. Whilst I laud the release of the hostages and the flexibilty of Israel under the difficult war circumstances, we must not lose the sight of who are the true villains in this conflict. Israelis who are releasing criminals sentenced and sent to jail after a due process or Hamas who are releasing abducted innocent civilians. At the rate of 3 : 1, no less. Obviously even to Hamas the Palestinian lives are worth less.

      • Fuad XXX says:

        You should increase your reading matter. The “criminals” Israelis are releasing are actually Palestinian Youth brutalized by IDF & the criminal Settlers. & by the way Hamas is not a terrorist organization as the Zionist Apartheid Regime wants you to believe, they responded to 75+ years of occupation.

        • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

          Just 2 examples of humanity’s finest “Palestinian Youth brutalized by IDF & the criminal Settlers”:

          1. Marah Bakeer, 24, convicted by an Israeli court of attempting to stab an Israeli police officer in 2015.
          2. Rawan Nafez Mohammad Abu Matar, 29, imprisoned for stabbing an Israeli soldier in 2015.

          Actually 64 of the 117 Palestinian prisoners released in the first 3 days of the hostage release deal had been held by Israel for violent crimes. Readers can verify this independently (no need to take Fuad XXX at his word)

    • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

      Unfortunately Cornay – your assessment of the hostages’ treatment in captivity seems to be accurate and is being widely covered by the Israeli press. It includes accounts UNHRWA and Gazan Doctors complicity.

      Hamas knows the enemy they are fighting, and how we value each life (the reason for this disproportional exchange ratio of 3:1). They also know that their time is running out, which is why the batches of hostages are shrinking and they are looking for additional ceasefire days to regroup. Israel knows their enemy too, and they will be defeated (as they always are).

  • Fuad XXX says:

    Where have you been Mr Blinken. It is time to hold the Zionist Apartheid State of Israel to account for its decades long war crimes. They expect Israeli women & children to be prioritize in releases. What about the Palestinian women & children that gets brutalized daily by the IDF & the criminal land stealing settlers. The USA is incapable of a just solution therefore is it not time for the UN & the ICC to fulfil their mandates & all humanitarian NGOs to rise in unison against this Zionist Apartheid State of Israel. How much more suffering will be inflicted on the Palestinians. The October 7th resistance did not happen in a vacuum.

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