| 23 February 2024, Friday |

Israel-Hamas truce in Gaza enters final day with talks of possible extension

On Monday, Hamas announced the last 24 hours of the truce, expressing readiness to prolong the ceasefire following the release of additional hostages.
The pause that began Friday has seen dozens of hostages freed, with Israel also freeing over 100 Palestinians — women and children — who were held in prison in return.
Attention now has turned to whether the truce will be extended before its scheduled end early on Tuesday morning.

“That’s my goal, that’s our goal, to keep this pause going beyond tomorrow so that we can continue to see more hostages come out and surge more humanitarian relief into those in need in Gaza,” US President Joe Biden said Sunday.

He said he would like the fighting to be paused for “as long as prisoners keep coming out.”

“I get a sense that all the players in the region are looking for a way to end this so the hostages are all released and… Hamas is completely no longer in control of Gaza.”
Under the truce, 50 hostages held by the militants were to be freed over four days in exchange for 150 Palestinians who were held in Israeli jails. A built-in mechanism extends it if at least 10 Israeli captives are released each extra day.

One potential complicating factor is the fact that some hostages are believed to be held by groups other than Hamas.

Israel faces enormous pressure from the families of hostages, as well as allies, to extend the truce to secure more releases.

“It would be good, helpful and necessary” to extend the truce until all hostages, who include French nationals, are freed, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna told BFMTV on Sunday.

Three successive days of hostage releases have buoyed spirits in Israel, with tearful reunions weeks after Hamas militants poured across the border on October 7 and took about 230 hostages, according to Israeli officials.

Israel has responded by launching a relentless military campaign in Hamas-controlled Gaza, killing nearly 15,000 people, including thousands of children, according to Gaza’s government.
The third group of hostages released Sunday included a four-year-old American citizen called Abigail whose parents were both murdered in the Hamas attacks.

“What a joy to see her with us. But on the other hand, what a pity that she returns to the reality of not having parents,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

“She has no parents, but she has a whole nation that embraces her,” he added.

Also among those freed Sunday was an 84-year-old woman who was rushed to intensive care in critical condition “after serious neglect,” medical officials said.

Thirteen hostages were freed under the terms of the truce on Sunday in exchange for 39 Palestinian prisoners, who have been received by rapturous crowds.

Hamas separately freed three Thai nationals and a Russian-Israeli citizen, Ron Krivoy, who the group said was released “in response to the efforts of Russian President Vladimir Putin” and his “support of the Palestinian cause”.

Hamas has signaled its willingness to extend the truce, with a source telling AFP the group told mediators they were open to prolonging it by “two to four days.”

“The resistance believes it is possible to ensure the release of 20 to 40 Israeli prisoners” in that time, the source close to the movement said.

  • alarabiya