Israel and Palestinian resistance group Hamas on Monday agreed to extend a temporary ceasefire by two more days, paving the way for more prisoners and hostages to be freed, the Associated Press reported.
The Qatari foreign ministry announced that “an agreement has been reached to extend the humanitarian truce” and Hamas confirmed the development. Qatar, with support from the United States and Egypt, has been mediating between Tel Aviv and the resistance group Hamas.
A four-day ceasefire between Israel and Hamas began on the morning of November 24 and was scheduled to end on Monday. The pause in hostilities was aimed at facilitating the exchange of hostages held by Hamas and Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.
Hamas was believed to have taken over 200 persons hostage when it led an incursion into southern Israel on October 7. Since then, over 13,300 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza in relentless air and ground strikes by Israeli forces, according to the health ministry in Gaza.
After the arrival of the hostages was confirmed, Israel’s prison authority announced that 33 Palestinian inmates had been released, according to AFP. Early on Tuesday, they arrived in east Jerusalem and the city of Ramallah, the de facto capital of Palestine.
The released prisoners were greeted by cheering crowds in Ramallah as a bus carrying them made its way through the streets.
Since November 24, Hamas has released 51 Israeli hostages and 19 hostages from other countries. Israel, on its part, has released 150 Palestinian prisoners.
United States National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby on Monday welcomed the extension in the truce between Israel and Hamas. “We would, of course, hope to see the pause extended further, and that will depend upon Hamas continuing to release hostages,” he said.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the dialogue that led to the hostages and prisoners being released must continue. “Countries must use their influence for a humanitarian ceasefire & support irreversible steps towards the only sustainable future for the region: a two-state solution,” he said.