(Bloomberg) -- Israel and Hamas agreed Monday to extend a cease-fire in their devastating war until Thursday morning, as 11 more freed hostages arrived in Israel.
The current halt —- which began Friday after intense negotiations brokered by Qatar, with the help of Egypt and the US — was originally due to end Tuesday. It was the first since the conflict erupted in early October when Hamas attacked Israel, which retaliated by bombing Gaza and reducing much of it to rubble.
The two sides will pause fighting for an additional two days, Qatar’s foreign ministry said on X, while Hamas said in a statement that a deal was reached to “extend the temporary humanitarian ceasefire for an additional two days, under the same conditions as the previous ceasefire.” The White House confirmed the agreement.
On Monday, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that “the government of Israel warmly welcomes our 11 abducted citizens who returned today to Israel.” A Qatari spokesman said the 11 hostages were being freed from Gaza in exchange for Israel’s release of 33 Palestinians. With many Israelis holding dual citizenship, the Qatari government said the hostages freed included three French citizens, two Germans and six Argentinians.
John Kirby, spokesman for the US National Security Council, said earlier on CNN that “we do not believe that there are Americans in this group coming out today.”
The extended cease-fire is expected to sustain the daily ratio of hostages and prisoners released by both sides, which has been aiming for one hostage from Gaza in exchange for three Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.
Israel has so far allowed more aid into Gaza and was set to release about 150 Palestinians from jail. Hamas, designated a terrorist group by the US and European Union, has so far freed more than 50 hostages, including foreigners.
The new extension of the accord was announced after Israel came under increasing pressure to agree to an extension. President Joe Biden has said he wanted to prolong the pause in the war, which has killed thousands of people and inflamed tensions in the Middle East and beyond.
Kirby said in a briefing that the White House welcomed the announcement of the truce extension, adding that Biden spoke with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday about the situation.
“The humanitarian pause has already brought a halt to fighting together with a surge of humanitarian assistance,” Kirby said. “We would of course hope to see the pause extended further, and that will depend on Hamas continuing to release hostages.”
Despite disputes and delays, the truce has held for three exchanges of hostages through Sunday, totaling 58 people, including non-Israelis. Those freed by Hamas on Sunday included a four-year-old girl — a US-Israeli dual national — whose parents were killed in the group’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
The war started when Hamas militants swarmed into southern Israeli communities from Gaza, killing about 1,200 people and abducting 240. More than 15,000 have died in Gaza amid air strikes and a later ground assault by Israel.
--With assistance from Jordan Fabian and Jennifer Jacobs.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.
BNN Bloomberg Picks
Canada tax changes to be aware of in 2024
45 cents short, $96 in fees: Court approves TD insufficient fund fees settlement
Makers of COVID-19 protective equipment seek over $5 billion in damages from Ottawa
Immigration surge fuels male population boom in Canada
Bank of Canada to halt its QT program within months, RBC says
New tax reporting requirements for bare trusts 'not easy to file': expert