Israel and Hamas extend temporary ceasefire by two days
A further 11 captives – nine women and two children – were released from Gaza into the hands of the Red Cross before being transferred to Egypt and then on to the Israeli military.
It means 51 hostages have been released during the four-day halt in fighting, with 33 Palestinian prisoners set free, bringing that total to 150.
International go-betweens from Qatar and Egypt had urgently been working with both sides before last night’s midnight deadline.
They then announced a deal had been reached to ensure the ceasefire was extended – but only by two days.
A spokesman for the Qatari government said: “An agreement has been reached to extend the humanitarian truce for an additional two days in the Gaza Strip.”
The further pause will allow the release of more of those nearly 200 Israeli hostages still being held in a labyrinth of underground tunnels beneath Gaza.
Hamas said the truce would now continue for 48 hours “under the
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that military operations in Gaza would resume with “full force” when the truce ended.
Israel said each further day of pause in the fighting in Gaza was predicated on the release of a further 10 captives.
So the additional two-day halt may see another 20 Israeli hostages returned. EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell called for the extension to be made more lasting.
He said: “The pause should be extended to make it sustainable and long-lasting while working for a political solution.”
And Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg pushed for the “humanitarian pause” in fighting to be extended. The British Government will also help drive forward a new political process for peace in Gaza, a Foreign Office minister said. Andrew Mitchell said: “When this ghastly violence finishes, or is significantly diminished everyone must bend every sinew to drive forward a new political process for peace.”
China’s foreign minister Wang Yi will travel to New York to host a meeting of the United Nations Security Council later this week, as international attempts to mediate the conflict gather pace. Jordan renewed its call for the extended ceasefire to be made permanent, while US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated the importance of Israel taking “concrete steps” to minimise harm to civilians in Gaza.
Meanwhile, there were again joyous scenes for those Israelis newly released. Reunited with their loved ones and enjoying freedom for the first time in 50 days, many could not contain their emotions.
Maya Regev, 21, taken hostage by Hamas on October 7 at the Supernova music festival in southern Israel, along with her brother Itay, fell into the arms of her family after she was reunited.
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Her overjoyed relatives were filmed running towards her in hospital and embracing her following her release. The family said they were all “very excited by Maya’s return to us”, but added they still long for Itay to join them.
The family added: “We ask the public, who has supported and strengthened us thus far, to pray for Itay’s, and of course all the other hostages’ speedy return home”.
Pictures were released of the moment four-year-old hostage and now orphan Abigail Edan was reunited with her uncle and aunt after more than a month in captivity.
She watched as Hamas gunmen killed her mother at the Kibbutz Kfar Aza on 7 October.
Moments later, her father – Roy Edan – was shot dead protecting his daughter. Abigail was the youngest hostage – and the first US citizen – released under a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas, and was freed on Saturday.
Avihai Brodetz was seen hugging his children Oria, Ofri and Yuval after their release along with his wife Hagar who had been held too.
Mother Maayan Zin was also pictured hugging her daughters Dafna, 15, and Ella, 8, Elyakim after their release from Hamas captivity.
So far 12 of the hostages released were taken from the Kibbutz Be’eri in Israel. Its administrator Iftah Celniker said: “It was very heart-warming, and it was very, very pleasing and satisfying and it was literally the first moment of happiness that we’d had here for a very long time.”
He added all the released hostages were still in hospital but “physically they are well”.
The Hamas attacks on October 7 killed around 1,200 Israeli people, with about 240 taken hostage.
Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says nearly 15,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli bombs.
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