Hope for Extension of Israel-Hamas Truce

11/29/2023
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    Gabriela and Mia Leimberg, rear, talk with family on November 28, 2023, at a meeting point in Israeli territory after being released by Hamas. (GPO/Handout via AP)
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    Thai hostages, who were previously released by Hamas, hug their newly-freed compatriots at the Shamir Medical Center in Israel on November 28, 2023. (Thailand’s Foreign Ministry via AP )
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    Palestinian children sell sweets in front of the rubble of a destroyed building in Jebaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on November 28, 2023. (AP/Mohammed Hajjar)
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    Palestinians cook bread by their destroyed homes in the Gaza Strip during the temporary ceasefire between Hamas and Israel on November 29, 2023. (AP/Hatem Ali)
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    Israeli soldiers look at photos of people killed and taken captive by Hamas militants displayed at the site of the violent rampage in southern Israel on November 28, 2023. (AP/Ohad Zwigenberg)
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International mediators work to extend the truce between Hamas and Israel. As of Wednesday morning, the cease-fire is currently due to end after an exchange planned for late Wednesday. An extension would grant residents of the Gaza Strip a longer window of relief from Israel’s air and ground offensive. It would also encourage Hamas militants to keep freeing the hostages it still holds, in exchange for Israel releasing more Palestinian prisoners.

The war began with the terror organization Hamas’ October 7 attack into southern Israel. Hamas killed over 1,200 people, mostly civilians. The militants took some 240 hostages into Gaza. The captured included babies, children, women, soldiers, older adults, and Thai farm laborers.

Israel responded with a devastating air campaign across Gaza and a ground invasion in the north. More than 13,300 Palestinians have died, according to Hamas-ruled Gaza’s Ministry of Health.

The cease-fire was originally set to expire on Monday. Israel agreed to extend the truce by one day for every 10 hostages freed. Hamas was expected to release another group of hostages later Wednesday.

Israel also says the country remains committed to eliminating the terrorist organization that is Hamas. Hamas, meanwhile, states in its charter documents that its purpose is to eradicate the nation of Israel and to reclaim the land for Palestine.

Weeks of heavy fighting seem to have had little effect on Hamas’ rule. Yehya Sinwar and other Hamas leaders have likely relocated to the south, along with hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians.

An Israeli ground invasion of the south could demolish Hamas’ militant base, including miles of tunnels. But the United States, Israel’s main ally, may be unwilling to bear the cost in more Palestinian lives and destruction.

International pressure for a lasting cease-fire is mounting. “How far both sides will be prepared to go in trading hostages and prisoners for the pause is about to be tested, but the pressures and incentives for both to stick with it are at the moment stronger than the incentives to go back to war,” says Martin Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel.

Diaa Rashwan is head of Egypt’s state information services. He says talks to extend the cease-fire and release more hostages have made progress. He called it “highly likely” that another extension would be announced Wednesday. Egypt, along with Qatar and the United States, played a key role in the original cease-fire and a two-day extension.

On Wednesday, Israel said that around 160 hostages are still being held in Gaza. Four are under 18, and 10 are over 75. Israel does not say how many captives are soldiers. Hamas will likely drive a much harder bargain for those prisoners.

A total of 60 Israelis were freed as part of the truce. Most appeared physically well but shaken. Before the cease-fire, Hamas released four hostages. The Israeli army rescued one.

The latest exchange between Israel and Hamas brought the number of Palestinians freed from Israeli prisons to 180. Most were teenagers accused of throwing stones and firebombs during confrontations with Israeli forces. Several were women convicted by Israeli military courts of attempting deadly attacks.

Ordinary Palestinians fear the resumption of the war. “We are fed up,” says Omar al-Darawi, who works at a hospital in Gaza. “We want this war to stop.”

The cease-fire allowed more aid to be delivered to Gaza, up to 200 trucks per day. Still, that is less than half what the enclave imported before the fighting. People seeking  fuel and other basics waited for hours in long lines that formed before dawn.

Update: Israel and Hamas agreed to extend the temporary truce by one day just minutes before it was set to expire on November 30. The Qatari Foreign Ministry says the truce was lengthened under the same terms as the previous extension. Under those terms, Hamas has released 10 Israeli hostages per day in exchange for the release of 30 Palestinian prisoners.