Truce extended for two more days

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Jubilant Palestinian women on their release from prison returning to their families

QATAR announced yesterday that the truce between Israel and Gaza has been extended for two days, with 20 Israeli captives to be handed over in exchange for the release of more Palestinian prisoners.

Hamas said the truce, which was due to conclude at 7.00am this morning, has been extended by 48 hours in agreement with Qatar and Egypt, as Israel said it was open to extending the pause in fighting in exchange for the release of more captives held in Gaza.

Hamas had earlier urged an extension, with Khalil Al Hayya, member of the Hamas Political Bureau, saying: ‘During the negotiations for a humanitarian truce Hamas responded positively.

‘Since day one Hamas has been keen on releasing this category of captives – women and children.

‘The number of captives held by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other resistance factions, even those kept with civilian families, was 50 women and children below the age of 19.

‘We want to see the release of more Israeli civilian women and children despite the crimes committed by their state, their government and their murderous army.

‘If we locate more of them held in Gaza we will notify the concerned parties to have the truce extended for a day or more.’

The diplomatic drive was continuing yesterday afternoon as the two sides prepared a fourth prisoner swap.

Israel had said it was prepared to pause its onslaught on Gaza by one day in exchange for the release of 10 additional captives.

Israeli Army Radio said that the government in Tel Aviv was awaiting Hamas’s response on extending the truce for an additional day in exchange for the release of 10 detainees.

US president Biden said his goal was to prolong the truce, while intense negotiations were under way.

Extending the truce ‘is 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,’ Biden told a news conference.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken headed for Israel, before moving on to Brussels to attend a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting, where the crisis in Gaza is to be discussed on the sidelines.

The EU’s top foreign policy official Josep Borrell said: ‘The pause should be extended to make it sustainable and long-lasting while working for a political solution.’
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