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Israel and Hamas Extend Ceasefire for Two Days

John Kirby (Via John Kirby/Twitter)

Israel and Hamas have extended their ceasefire for two additional days, raising hopes for further exchanges of militants and Palestinian prisoners. The decision comes as the four-day ceasefire was set to expire on Monday. Under the original truce, Israel had released 17 Palestinian prisoners, and an additional 33 prisoners will be released by Israel’s prison service as part of the new extension. The prisoners are expected to head to the West Bank.

The deal was announced by Qatar, the United States, and Egypt, and was confirmed by Hamas as being agreed to “under the same terms”. Israel had stated that it would extend the ceasefire by one day for every 10 additional hostages released, and Hamas has reportedly agreed to the two-day extension in exchange for the release of more prisoners.

The humanitarian situation in Gaza remains dire, with 2.3 million Palestinians affected by weeks of Israeli bombardment and a ground offensive that has driven three-quarters of the population from their homes. The United Nations has warned of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where many residents are struggling to access basic necessities such as food, water, and electricity.

As part of the ceasefire, Israel has released 50 Israelis, including 17 women and children, who were held hostage by Hamas and other militants. The releases have brought moments of joy and reunions to Israeli families, who had been anxiously waiting for the safe return of their loved ones. However, it is estimated that Hamas and other militants may still be holding up to 175 hostages, including soldiers, which could potentially extend the ceasefire for two-and-a-half weeks.

John Kirby (Via John Kirby/Twitter)

The freed hostages have given harrowing accounts of their captivity, with some describing inadequate food and care. Abigail Edan, a four-year-old girl who was released on Sunday, told her family that she had been fed mainly bread and rice and had to sleep on a makeshift bed of chairs. The newly released hostages included women and children, including three-year-old twin girls and their mother, who were part of a community near Gaza that was hard hit in Hamas’s October 7 attack.

The international community has welcomed the ceasefire extension, with the White House National Security Council spokesman, John Kirby, saying that the United States hopes to see the pause extended further, and that it will depend on Hamas continuing to release hostages. The Human Rights Council of the United Nations has also called for an independent investigation into the clashes between Israel and Gaza, and for both sides to comply with international humanitarian law.

As the war rages on, both sides continue to suffer losses, with more than 13,000 Palestinians killed, including two-thirds of them women and minors, and over 1,200 people killed on the Israeli side, mostly civilians. The human toll of the conflict is mounting, and a longer and more sustainable ceasefire is needed to bring relief to the people of Gaza and Israel.

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