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Israel-Palestine war: Qatar says deal reached to extend Gaza truce by two days

Qatar's foreign ministry says truce between Israel and Hamas has been extended by two extra days, while more hostages and prisoners are expected to be freed later today
Palestinians walk amid debris of buildings hit by Israeli air strikes, near al-Zawiya market in Gaza City on 27 November 2023 (AFP)

Qatari meditators successfully negotiated an agreement between Israel and Hamas to extend a temporary pause in fighting by two days, offering Palestinians in Gaza another brief respite from seven weeks of conflict that has seen thousands of civilians killed.

Majed al-Ansari, a spokesman for the Qatari foreign ministry, which helped mediate talks that led to the initial four-day pause, said on Monday that an "agreement has been reached to extend the humanitarian truce for an additional two days in the Gaza Strip."

Ansar did not specify how many Israelis would be released but Qatari negotiators had earlier said that if the pause in hostilities was extended by two days, Hamas would release another 20 women and children held in Gaza while Israel would free another 60 Palestinian women and children held in Israeli prisons.

There was no immediate confirmation of the truce extension from Israel, but Hamas issued a statement confirming the pause and credited Qatari and Egyptian mediation efforts.

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Qatar has previously indicated that a major potential challenge in extending any agreement would be whether Hamas manages to locate more Israeli captives, some of whom are believed to be held by criminal gangs and other armed groups, including the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Monday's announcement came shortly after the Israeli prime minister's office said it had begun contacting the families of Israelis who would be released on Monday as part of the final day of a four-day truce.

Monday's exchange was expected to include 11 Israelis in Gaza for 33 Palestinians held by Israel.

The latest truce extension will offer further relief for the 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza who have endured relentless Israeli bombardment, as well as families in Israel fearful for the fate of their loved ones taken captive on 7 October.

Earlier on Monday, a spokesman for UN secretary general Antonio Guterres said he wanted to see the truce between Israel and Hamas turn into a full humanitarian ceasefire. 

"The humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza is getting worse by the day," Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

"The dialogue that led to the agreement must continue, resulting in a full humanitarian ceasefire, for the benefit of the people of Gaza, Israel and the wider region." 

Follow Middle East Eye's live coverage for the latest on the Israel-Palestine war

Israel launched its devastating assault on Gaza after Palestinian fighters burst across the border fence on 7 October, in response to Israeli violations at Al-Aqsa Mosque and rising settler violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

On 7 October, Palestinian fighters killed around 1,200 people and seized about 240 people, according to Israeli tallies.

Since then, Israel has relentlessly targeted the besieged enclave, killing more than 14,000 people in Gaza, about 40 percent of them children, according to Palestinian health authorities.

Israel claims it has killed thousands of Hamas fighters, without presenting evidence, and has confirmed the death of at least 70 of its soldiers.

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