Israel and Hamas truce extends into fifth day


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Israel and Hamas are set for a fifth consecutive transfer of hostages and prisoners after the warring sides agreed to extend a pause in fighting for an additional 48 hours. 

Under an extension of what was originally a four-day ceasefire involving hostage and prisoner swaps, Israel’s government said on Tuesday that it had identified 50 female Palestinian prisoners as “eligible to be released in the event that a release of additional Israeli hostages is carried out”.

Palestinian militant group Hamas has not yet said how many Israelis it would free, but negotiators had earlier put the number at 20. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been under pressure to continue the temporary truce in order to free more hostages abducted by Hamas in its attack on southern Israel on October 7, which killed 1,200 people and triggered the war.

During the four-day truce, Hamas released 50 Israeli women and children, as well as foreigners and dual nationals, leaving roughly 190 civilians and soldiers still in captivity. In return, Israel freed 150 Palestinian women and children from prison.

A helicopter carrying hostages released by Hamas lands at a hospital in Tel Aviv on Monday © Alexi J Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Qatar, which has brokered the deal alongside Egypt and the US, announced on Monday that the four-day pause would continue for two more days

But to facilitate an extension of the temporary ceasefire, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said in a Financial Times interview that Hamas would need to find about 40 women and children being held in Gaza by other armed groups.

Hamas official Izzat al-Rishq told Al-Araby television on Monday that the group was “working to search for the remaining missing [hostages]”.

The truce involves Hamas releasing groups of Israeli women and children held hostage in Gaza every day, in exchange for Israeli prisons freeing Palestinian women and children who have been sentenced or are in detention. 

The deal also involves stepping up desperately needed aid deliveries through Rafah, the single functioning border crossing with the besieged Gaza Strip.

Home to 2.3mn people, Gaza has largely been cut off from supplies since the fighting started, creating a mounting humanitarian crisis. The UN says that 1.8mn people have been forced to flee their homes and more than 1mn are sheltering in under-equipped UN facilities, including schools. 

The ferocity of Israel’s retaliatory air campaign and ground invasion, which has levelled swaths of the densely populated area and hit schools and hospitals, had sparked international calls for a ceasefire. Palestinian officials say 14,800 people have been killed in the Israeli offensive. 

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