Mediator Qatar announced the extension of a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza by two days, and 11 more hostages have been released, in addition to the 69 already freed since Friday.
This extension continues the pause in hostilities that have lasted seven weeks, a conflict instigated by an incursion by the Islamist Palestinian group into southern Israel on October 7, resulting in approximately 1,200 deaths and the capture of around 240 people.
Since the commencement of the four-day ceasefire last Friday, both Hamas and Israel have reciprocated by releasing hostages daily.
Israel agreed to prolong the ceasefire by one day for every ten additional hostages released by Hamas, providing relief to Palestinians in Gaza from the devastating conflict.
Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesperson, through a social media post, announced the two-day extension of the ‘humanitarian pause’ in Gaza, a decision also confirmed by Hamas. While Israel has not officially commented, a White House official verified the agreement.
U.S. President Joe Biden expressed gratitude to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Qatar, and Egypt for facilitating indirect negotiations, leading to the release of more hostages and increased aid to Gaza.
The Israeli military reported the arrival of 11 Israeli hostages in Israel, released as per the original ceasefire agreement due to end on Monday.
Qatar disclosed that the newly freed hostages, all dual citizens, include individuals from France, Germany, and Argentina.
Hamas stated it had obtained a list of 33 Palestinians, including three women and 30 minors, to be released from Israeli prisons.
With these developments, Hamas has released a total of 69 individuals since Friday, encompassing Israelis and other nationalities.
The initial four-day ceasefire stipulated the release of 50 Israeli women and children held in Gaza by Hamas, without restricting the number of foreign nationals to be freed.
An Israeli spokesperson noted that, prior to the latest releases, 184 hostages remained in Gaza, including 14 foreigners and 80 dual Israeli citizens.
John Kirby, U.S. national security spokesperson, indicated that no Americans were expected among the newly released group from Gaza, where an estimated seven to nine U.S. citizens are held.
A senior U.S. official revealed plans for U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to visit Israel, the West Bank, and the UAE to discuss ongoing aid to Gaza, hostage releases, and broader U.S. goals for Gaza and the future of the Palestinian state.