Adel Hana Associated Press A Palestinian walks with a bundle containing some personal belongings in Gaza City, destroyed by Israeli bombings.
Adel Zaanoun – Agence France-Presse and Didier Lauras – Agence France-Presse respectively in the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem
- Middle East
Hamas said on Wednesday it was ready to extend the truce in Gaza and release new hostages, while international mediators increase efforts to obtain a lasting end to the war between the Palestinian Islamist movement and Israel.
A new exchange of hostages held in the Gaza Strip since October 7 for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel is expected on Wednesday, the sixth day of this truce which has allowed the massive entry of humanitarian aid into the besieged Palestinian territory, devastated by seven weeks of Israeli bombing.
Despite the “ray of hope” brought by the truce, the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip are experiencing “a monumental humanitarian catastrophe”, denounced the UN Secretary General, calling for a “true humanitarian ceasefire”.
After an initial extension of the truce until 5 a.m. GMT (midnight EST) on Thursday, a source close to Hamas told AFP on Wednesday that the Islamist movement was “agreed” to the extend “an additional four days” and release Israeli hostages, “within the current agreement and on the same conditions.”
In the West Bank, a Palestinian territory occupied by Israel for 56 years, an 8-year-old child and a 15-year-old teenager were killed by the Israeli army, according to the Palestinian Authority. The Israeli army said it was “verifying” this information.
Since the start of the war triggered by a bloody attack by Hamas on October 7 in Israel, violence has flared in the West Bank, separated from the Strip of Gaza through Israeli territory. Nearly 240 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers or settlers since October 7, according to the Palestinian Authority.
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“More hostages released, more help »
In Israel, around 1,200 people, the vast majority civilians, according to the authorities, were killed in the attack carried out on October 7 by Hamas commandos infiltrated from the neighboring Gaza Strip, of a violence and magnitude unprecedented in the country's history.
The Israeli army estimated the number of people kidnapped on the day of the attack at around 240. Hamas said it is holding the majority of the hostages, while others are in the hands of other armed groups in Gaza.
In retaliation, Israel promised to “annihilate” Hamas, in power since 2007 in Gaza, shelling the Palestinian territory and launching a ground offensive on October 27, until the truce came into force on November 24.
According to the Hamas government, 14,854 people, including 6,150 under the age of 18, were killed in Israeli strikes.
In order to extend the truce, the countries mediators are stepping up their efforts and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to hold talks on Thursday in Israel and the West Bank.
A “two-day” extension is “likely” and a four-day extension remains “possible,” a source close to the discussions in Qatar, the main mediator in the conflict, told AFP.
“We would like to see this pause extended,” Antony Blinken said in Brussels. This extension “means more hostages returning home, more help.”
Sixteen days in solitary confinement
Every day since November 24, Hamas has released around ten women and children kidnapped on October 7, in exchange for the release of three times as many Palestinian prisoners.
The truce agreement, negotiated with The support of Egypt and the United States has already enabled the release of 60 Israeli hostages and 180 Palestinian detainees.
In addition, 21 other hostages, mostly Thais living in Israel, have been released outside the framework of this agreement. Hamas announced that “several” Russian hostages would similarly be released on Wednesday.
The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it had received the list of hostages to be released during the day.
Few direct testimonies have filtered through on the living conditions of the hostages in Gaza. But the grandmother of Eitan Yahalomi, a 12-year-old released Monday, said he was held in solitary confinement for 16 days.
“The days he was alone were was horrible,” Esther Yaeli told the Israeli news site Walla. “Now Eitan seems very withdrawn. »
Benjamin Netanyahu again promised Tuesday to “release all hostages” from Hamas, classified as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Israel.
On Tuesday, ten Israeli hostages and two Thais were released, as well as 30 Palestinian prisoners.
In East Jerusalem, occupied and annexed by Israel, Ahmed Salaima, a 14-year-old Palestinian ex-detainee, was reunited with his family on Tuesday evening, according to AFP images. He is the youngest Palestinian prisoner to be released since November 24.
“I can never thank God enough for the release of my son,” exclaimed his father, Nayef Salaima, who explained that she “lost all contact” with him when the war started.
Despite the arrival since November 24, via Egypt, of hundreds of trucks of humanitarian aid, the situation remains “catastrophic” in the Gaza Strip, judged the World Food Program (WFP), estimating that “it there is a risk of famine.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) said it had seen a “massive increase” in some contagious diseases, even as most hospitals in the Gaza Strip are at a standstill.
According to a White House official, the quantity of humanitarian aid arriving by road, at the current rate of 240 trucks per day, now totals 2,000 trucks of food, fuel, medicine and equipment necessary for the operation of the infrastructure. desalination of sea water.
Kilometres for drinking water
Already subject to an Israeli land, sea and air blockade since 2007 , the small, overpopulated territory was placed under total siege by Israel on October 9.
According to the UN, 1.7 million of its 2.4 million inhabitants have been displaced by the war and more than half of the homes were damaged or destroyed.
“We have had no water, no food, no flour for ten days. The situation is hard, very hard,” Achraf Selim, a resident of Gaza, told AFP.
Thousands of Palestinians, displaced in the south of the Gaza Strip, took advantage of the truce to return to their homes in the north, the most devastated region, ignoring the ban of the Israeli army which took control of several sectors there.
On Wednesday, in Gaza City, people carrying cans lined up near a cistern to get drinking water.
“People arrive here on foot, from far away, about 10, 20 or 30 kilometers, simply to get drinking water,” Mohammed Matar, the owner of a water desalination plant, explained to AFP.
Around the al-Chifa hospital, stormed November 15 by the Israeli army after having served as a refuge for civilians, wooden stakes driven into the freshly turned over earth mark anonymous graves.