Mohammed Hajjar Associated Press Some Palestinians move in the town of Gaza, devastated by Israeli bombings since October 7, following the massacres committed by Hamas.
The truce in force in the Gaza Strip will be extended by two days, Hamas confirmed on Monday after an announcement from Qatar. Israel had proposed it, on the condition that the Palestinian Islamist movement continues to release hostages, at a time when international pressure is increasing to obtain a longer pause in the fighting in Gaza.
The truce, which was scheduled to end at 7 a.m. (midnight EST) Tuesday, allowed the entry of hundreds of trucks loaded with humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, besieged and devastated by seven weeks of Israeli bombardment in retaliation for the he bloody attack launched by Hamas against Israel on October 7.
“Israel insists on renewing the truce day after day”, while the mediating countries, Qatar, United States and Egypt, propose a break of “several days,” an Egyptian security source told AFP.
The Israeli government is under intense pressure to extend the truce and thus allow the release of more prisoners. hostages, forcefully demanded by public opinion traumatized by the Hamas attack.
After American President Joe Biden, the European Union and NATO called on Monday for an extension of the truce.
An additional respite would “provide more aid to populations who are in great need need and to obtain the release of other hostages”, underlined NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Israel offered Hamas on Monday an “option” to extend the truce and “receive 50 additional hostages,” according to a government spokesperson.
On Sunday evening, Hamas, in power in Gaza since 2007, said it was “seeking to extend the truce, in order to increase the number of prisoners released”. A source close to Hamas told AFP that the Palestinian movement was in favor of an extension of “two to four days”.
The initial agreement provides for a four-day truce, the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza from Egypt, as well as the release of 50 hostages kidnapped by Hamas on October 7 and 150 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons.< /p>
Israel claimed that beyond four days, the release of “ten additional hostages” — compared to 30 prisoners — would lead to “an additional day of pause.”
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“More hostages released”
“Arrangements call for the release of ten more hostages every day and this is a blessing,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday after an interview with Joe Biden.
“But I also told the president that we will, after the agreement, return to our objective: to eliminate Hamas and make sure that the Gaza Strip is no longer what it was,” Mr. Netanyahu added, who must ask the government on Monday for a “war” budget of 30 billion shekels (CA$10.9 billion).
The American president affirmed on Sunday that his objective was “to ensure that this break continues […] so we can see more hostages released and more humanitarian aid delivered to the Gaza Strip.
The head of European Union diplomacy, Josep Borrell, for his part, called on Monday for a “lasting” truce with a view to working on a “political solution” to the conflict.
While new releases hostages and prisoners are expected on Monday, a source close to the discussions in Qatar reported “a slight problem with the lists” of Israel and Hamas. “The Qataris are working with both sides to resolve it and avoid delays,” according to this source.
Since Friday, 39 Israeli hostages have been released as part of the deal, along with 117 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, at a ratio of one hostage to three prisoners.
In addition, 19 hostages were released without agreement, mostly Thais who worked in Israel.
Among the hostages released on Sunday was a four-year-old girl with American nationality, named Abigail.
According to a senior American official, his mother was murdered before his eyes during the Hamas attack. Her father tried to protect her before being killed in turn. Abigail then fled to neighbors, where she was taken hostage.
Abigail “no longer has parents, but she has an entire country hugging her. We will take good care of her,” promised Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Sad and happy”
An Israeli soldier, released by the army from the hands of Hamas at the end of October, welcomed the release of hostages on Monday, in her first public remarks since her release.
Ori Megidish, 19, was on guard duty at the ultra-militarized border between Israel and the Gaza Strip when she was captured on October 7. In a video posted on her Tiktok account, she says she is “doing well” and is “happy to see the moving images of hostages being reunited with their families.”
According to the Israeli authorities, 1,200 people, the vast majority civilians, were killed during the attack launched by commandos of the Islamist movement infiltrated from the Gaza Strip. The military estimated the total number of hostages kidnapped on October 7 at 240.
In retaliation, Israel promised to “eliminate” Hamas, classified as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union and Israel, relentlessly bombing the Palestinian territory and launching a ground offensive on October 27, until the truce.
In the Gaza Strip, 14,854 people, including 6,150 under the age of 18, were killed by Israeli strikes, according to the Hamas government.
In the occupied West Bank, crowds wave Palestinian flags , Hamas and other Palestinian groups welcomed the freed prisoners on Sunday.
“I am sad for our martyrs and happy for the victory achieved by our resistance,” Yazan Sabah, a young prisoner released.
Since Friday, several hundred trucks loaded with aid have been able to enter the Gaza Strip, via Egypt, and some of them have reached the north, the most devastated part of the territory.
< p>If the truce has offered respite to the population, the needs are “unprecedented” in the territory, where “200 trucks per day for at least two months” would be necessary, the UN agency estimated on Sunday. Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).
“No fuel has been brought to hospitals in Gaza City and the north of the Gaza Strip since the start of the truce,” the Palestinian Authority said on Monday. director general of the Hamas Ministry of Health, Mounir al-Bourch.
More than half of the homes have been damaged or destroyed by the war, according to the UN, and 1.7 million of the 2, 4 million people have been displaced.
On Monday, two UN experts called for “rapid, transparent and independent” independent investigations into “allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity” by all parties since October 7.