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Jerusalem: Israel and Hamas on Thursday agreed to extend a temporary truce by another day minutes before it was set to expire, said Qatar, which has been mediating between the two sides.
The announcement Thursday morning came minutes before the cease-fire was set to expire.
Israel had agreed to extend the truce by one day for every 10 militant-held hostages who are freed. The cease-fire, which began Nov. 24 and was originally set to expire on Monday, has paused the deadliest fighting between Israel and Palestinians in decades.
Israel has vowed to resume the war in an effort to end Hamas’ 16-year rule of Gaza, but it’s facing mounting international pressure to spare southern Gaza a devastating ground offensive like the one that has demolished much of the north.
The announcement followed a last-minute standoff earlier Thursday, with Hamas saying Israel had rejected a proposed list that included seven living captives and the remains of three who the group said were killed in previous Israeli airstrikes. Israel later said Hamas submitted an improved list, paving the way for the extension.
Negotiators had been working into Thursday to hammer out details for a further extension of the truce. The expectation had been to extend the pause in fighting for at least another day or two, with the focus on releasing women and children.
Earlier, the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Brussels that the Biden administration would like to see a new extension of the cease-fire agreement in Israel’s war with Hamas after the current one expires to secure the release of additional hostages held by the militant group and to ramp up humanitarian aid deliveries to Gaza.
As he prepared to make his third visit to the Middle East since the war began with Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks in Israel, Blinken said Wednesday that in addition to discussing short-term logistical and operational planning, the Biden administration believes it is imperative to discuss ideas about the future governance of Gaza if Israel achieves its stated goal of eradicating Hamas.
Israel and Arab nations have resisted such discussions about future governance, with Israeli officials concentrating on the war and Arab leaders insisting the immediate priority must be ending the fighting that has killed thousands of Palestinian civilians.