A helicopter with Israeli hostages released earlier by Hamas lands at Sheba Medical Centre on the sixth day of the temporary truce after Hamas blamed ‘technical issues’ on the delay as family and friends wait nearby in the early morning hours of November 30, 2023 in Ramat Gan, Israel.
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Israel and Hamas agreed to extend their cease-fire by at least a further 24 hours just minutes before the fragile truce hit its deadline.
The six-day pause in fighting so far has seen almost 100 hostages released from Hamas’ captivity in Gaza — just over 70 Israelis and 24 foreign nationals, mostly Thai agricultural workers — and 210 Palestinian prisoners released from Israeli detention, as of Wednesday. Under the terms of the deal between the warring parties, three Palestinian prisoners are exchanged for every one Israeli hostage.
“The operational pause will continue in light of the mediators’ efforts to continue the process of releasing the hostages and subject to the terms of the framework,” the Israeli Defense Forces posted on its official X account.
Qatar, a key mediator of the arrangement which has also been home to Hamas’ political division since 2012, noted the continuation of humanitarian aid delivery to Gaza under the terms of the cease-fire.
“Palestinian and Israeli sides reached an agreement to extend the humanitarian truce in the Gaza Strip for an additional day under the same previous conditions, which are a ceasefire and the entry of humanitarian aid, within the framework of the joint mediation of the State of Qatar,” Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
U.S. President Joe Biden confirmed Wednesday that one of the freed hostages was a dual Israeli-American national.
Top officials from Qatar, Egypt, the U.S. and Israel have been involved in the cease-fire talks, with many working to extend the deal that was meant to expire on Thursday morning. Both sides have accused the other of violating the pause in fighting at times.
RAMALLAH, WEST BANK – NOVEMBER 30: A bus carrying a group of 30 freed Palestinian prisoners makes its way into the city center after they were released from Israeli prison on November 30, 2023 in Ramallah, West Bank. Hamas reportedly freed 16 Israeli and foreign hostages from Gaza in the latest such hostage-prisoner swap under the current temporary truce which is set to expire on Thursday morning. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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Israel’s seven-week-old war with the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza is the bloodiest yet, and has killed more than 14,500 people in the besieged Gaza Strip, according to health authorities there.
Israel’s air and land offensive was launched in retaliation to a terrorist attack by Hamas on southern Israel that killed some 1,200 people and saw another roughly 240 taken hostage into Gaza. Israel authorities say that around 160 hostages remain there.