GAZA : The truce between Israel and Hamas has been extended for a seventh day, sources from both sides announced just minutes before the agreement was set to expire.
Israel’s military said on Thursday that the temporary pause in fighting in the Gaza Strip will continue “in light of the mediators’ efforts to continue the process of releasing hostages, and subject to the terms of the agreement”.
In a separate statement, Hamas said an agreement has been reached to extend the temporary ceasefire, which initially began on Friday.
The truce will be extended for at least another 24 hours.
Qatar, which has been mediating between the two sides, said the agreement was being extended under the same terms as in the past, under which Hamas has released 10 Israeli hostages per day in exchange for 30 Palestinian prisoners.
Down to the wire
Until the last hour, the prospect of an extension was in question, after the two sides failed to agree on the new list of Israeli captives to be released from Gaza on Thursday.
Hamas said Israel rejected a proposed list that included seven living captives and the remains of three captives the group said were killed in previous Israeli air strikes. Israel later said Hamas submitted an improved list, paving the way for the extension.
The talks between the two sides appear to be growing tougher as most of the women and children held by Hamas are freed.
The Palestinian group may seek greater numbers of prisoner releases in return for freeing Israeli men and soldiers.
“There are only so many civilian hostages left,” Mohamed Elmasry, an analyst with the Doha Institute of Graduate Studies, told Al Jazeera. “The longer this extends, the more difficult this will be for Hamas to produce civilian hostages because they have a very limited number of them.”
He said Hamas would likely demand far greater concessions, such as a permanent ceasefire and the release of all Palestinian prisoners, to release Israeli soldiers.
“Israel is going to want those hostages back. The question is: at what price?” Elmasry said.
Relief in Gaza
News of Thursday’s extension came as a relief in Gaza, where citizens were left in the dark about the truce’s status until early on Thursday morning, said Al Jazeera’s Tarek Abu Azzoum, reporting from the enclave.
He said the pause in the fighting means “more humanitarian aid will be allowed to enter the Gaza Strip, including water, food, medicine and even fuel”.
“Every new single day of extension [of the truce] will give Palestinians a new opportunity to be alive and to have more supplies to help them alleviate the humanitarian crisis,” he said.
International pressure for such a lasting ceasefire has mounted after nearly eight weeks of Israeli bombardment and a ground campaign in Gaza. The Israeli attacks have killed at least 15,000 Palestinians, uprooted three-quarters of the population of 2.3 million and sparked a devastating humanitarian crisis.
Israel has welcomed the release of dozens of hostages in recent days, including 16 late on Wednesday, and previously said it would maintain the truce for as long as Hamas kept freeing captives.
Still, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted on Wednesday that Israel will eventually resume its attacks on Gaza as it seeks to root out Hamas, which has ruled Gaza for 16 years.
“After this phase of returning our abductees is exhausted, will Israel return to fighting? So my answer is an unequivocal yes,” he said. “There is no way we are not going back to fighting until the end.”
courtesy : al jazeera