Israel-Hamas Truce Enters Final Day With Talk Of Extension

The Israeli-Hamas cease-fire reached its last 24 hours Monday, with the extremist group indicating it was eager to extend the break after freeing more hostages, including a four-year-old orphaned by their strike.

The pause, which began on Friday, has resulted in the release of scores of hostages in exchange for the release of over 100 Palestinian inmates by Israel.

The question now is whether the truce will be extended before it expires early 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.”

Hamas has signalled 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.

The truce called for the release of 50 militant hostages over the course of four days in exchange for the release of 150 Palestinian inmates. If at least ten Israeli hostages are released each extra day, a built-in mechanism extends it.

One potential complication is that some captives are suspected to be kept by organizations other than Hamas.

Israel is under intense pressure from prisoner families and supporters to extend the cease-fire in order to obtain more hostage 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 days of hostage releases have lifted emotions in Israel, with tearful reunions taking place just weeks after Hamas militants stormed the border on October 7, killing 1,200 people, largely civilians, according to Israeli officials.

According to Gaza’s Hamas government, Israel responded by launching a military campaign to eliminate Hamas, killing almost 15,000 people, largely civilians and including thousands of children.

The third group of captives released on Sunday included Abigail, a four-year-old American citizen whose parents were both killed in Hamas bombings.

“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.

An 84-year-old woman was also released on Sunday after being brought to intensive care in severe condition “after serious neglect,” according to medical officials.

On Sunday, thirteen hostages were released in exchange for 39 Palestinian detainees, who were greeted by raucous crowds waving Palestinian and Hamas flags.

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

Mounting pressure

Israel has come under increasing pressure to extend the truce negotiated by Qatar, the US, and Egypt, even though its officials have been quick to condemn any suggestion of a permanent halt to the offensive.

“We continue until the end — until victory,” Netanyahu said in Gaza on Sunday, on the first visit by an Israeli premier since 2005.

His office has proposed a war budget of 30 billion shekels ($8 billion) for 90 days.

Wearing green military fatigues and surrounded by soldiers, Netanyahu vowed to free all the hostages and “eliminate Hamas”, in footage posted online by his office.

“Nothing will stop us, and we are convinced that we have the power, the strength, the will and the determination to achieve all the war’s goals,” he said.

Elsewhere in Gaza, residents picked through heaps of rubble where homes once stood searching for belongings after weeks of bombardment.

“I came to see if there was anything left, if there was anything I could salvage. We fled with nothing,” said Ous sama al Bass, inspecting the ruins of his home in Al-Zahra, south of Gaza City.

“Everything is lost,” he said. “We’re tired. That’s enough. We can’t take it anymore.”

Families took to the streets of Gaza City on foot, hauling baggage and relatives in wheelchairs and holding youngsters in their arms.

Israel has advised Palestinians in Gaza to flee to the south for safety, but it has now sent text messages to individuals in the southern city of Khan Yunis warning that hostages are being held there.

“The army will neutralise anyone who has kidnapped hostages,” the message said.

The UN estimates that 1.7 million of Gaza’s 2.4 million people have been displaced by the fighting.

The pause in fighting has allowed more aid to reach Palestinians struggling to survive with shortages of water and other essentials.

Bbut Adnan Abu Hansa, a spokesman for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), warned of “unprecedented” humanitarian needs.

“We should send 200 lorries a day continuously for at least two months,” he said.

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