Israel agrees to extend truce with Hamas

Palestinians ride bicycles by destroyed buildings in Gaza City on Nov. 29, 2023, the sixth day of the temporary ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. International mediators on Wednesday worked to extend the truce in Gaza. [AP Photo]

Israel says it has agreed to extend the truce with Hamas for at least one more day.

The Israel Defence Forces tweeted in Hebrew that: "In light of the mediators' efforts to continue the process of releasing the abductees and subject to the terms of the agreement, the cease-fire will continue."

The statement came about 15 minutes before the truce was to end.

Israel is reported to have been unhappy with the list of hostages to be released that Hamas had proposed for the extension.

Hamas said Israel had declined its offer of seven women and child hostages and the
bodies of three others who the militants said were killed during an Israeli bombardment. Hamas said in a statement that the 10 were the only women and children hostages under its control.

Hamas militants freed 16 hostages Wednesday, the sixth and day of a truce between the warring parties, while negotiators worked to extend the pause in fighting and free even more hostages in exchange for Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

Five Israeli women, three children and two young men were freed along with four Thai nationals. Hamas had freed two Russian Israeli women, ages 50 and 73, earlier in a separate release. Early Thursday, Israel released 30 Palestinians from its jails in return, including Ahed Tamini, a well-known activist.

Hours before the truce was to end, Hamas had indicated Israel’s proposals to again extend the truce were insufficient.

"What is being proposed in the discussions to extend the truce is not the best," the source told Agence France-Presse, adding that the talks were focused on extending the pause by "two days or more."

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel. Earlier, he told reporters in Brussels that an extended truce “means that more hostages will be coming home, more [humanitarian] assistance will be getting in” to help displaced Palestinians in Gaza.

“Clearly, that’s something we want,” Blinken said. “I believe it’s also something that Israel wants. They’re also intensely focused on bringing their people home.”

One Israeli official told The Washington Post that the truce could be extended by two or three days, but a further cessation in fighting would not “lead to a permanent cease-fire.”

A man is welcomed after being released from prison by Israel, in the West Bank town of Ramallah, Nov 30, 2023. [AP Photo]

The official said that the “goal of removing Hamas from its rule in Gaza” remains as the key objective for the Jewish state after Hamas’ surprise October 7 attack on southern Israel killed about 1,200 people and allowed the capture of about 240 hostages. In response, an Israeli aerial bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza has killed more than 15,000 people, according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry.

The Israel Defense Forces said Wednesday that Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi, the Israeli army’s chief of staff, has approved plans for “the continuation of the fighting” in Gaza after the pause ends.

Hamas said Wednesday that three hostages — 10-month-old Kfir Bibas, his 4-year-old brother Ariel and their mother, Shiri Silberman Bibas — were killed at some undisclosed time during the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip. The Israeli army said it was investigating the Hamas claim.

The original Israel-Hamas truce called for four days of Israel pausing its campaign to eradicate the Hamas militant group, with Hamas releasing 50 hostages it seized during an attack on Israel last month and Israel freeing 150 Palestinian prisoners. The pause also allowed for increased humanitarian aid to reach the battered Gaza Strip.

A two-day extension was added under the terms of Hamas releasing 10 more hostages per day and Israel freeing additional prisoners.

The six-day truce has brought Gaza its first respite after six weeks of intensive Israeli aerial bombardment and a ground offensive prompted by the Hamas attack.

With the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, the United Nations estimates 1.8 million of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have fled their homes, with many staying in overcrowded shelters. Shelter Network, a U.N.-led aid consortium, said in a report last Friday that more than 60% of Gaza’s housing stock has been damaged or destroyed.

The World Health Organization warned Tuesday about the high risk of "explosive outbreaks of infectious diseases" amid the overcrowded conditions and the disruption of health, water and sanitation systems in Gaza.