Hamas and Qatar Agree to Extend Gaza Ceasefire Amid International Pressure
A last-minute agreement has been reached between Hamas and Qatar to extend the current ceasefire between Israel and Hamas by an additional two days. The extension comes after urgent efforts by mediators, with just over 12 hours remaining before hostilities in Gaza were set to resume.
Hamas confirmed the extension, stating that it had agreed to prolong the four-day truce by 48 hours. The primary mediators, Qatar and Egypt, played a crucial role in facilitating the agreement, and the terms of the extension remain the same as the initial ceasefire.
While there is no immediate confirmation from Israel, UN Secretary-General António Guterres hailed the extension as “a glimpse of hope and humanity in the middle of the darkness of war.” However, concerns persist that any interruption in the conflict may only be temporary.
Israel’s Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant, addressed troops on Monday, warning that when fighting resumes, it will be more intense and cover the entire Gaza Strip. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to crush Hamas, setting the stage for a potentially escalated conflict.
International pressure for an extension of the ceasefire has been significant, with the United States, the United Nations, and the European Union urging Israel to refrain from restarting its offensive in Gaza. The current truce was scheduled to expire on Tuesday morning.
The likely terms of the extension include the daily release of 10 Israeli hostages seized by Hamas during last month’s assault on southern Israel and 30 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. Additionally, humanitarian aid will continue to flow into Gaza, addressing the urgent needs of the population.
Late on Monday night, Hamas released eleven Israeli hostages, including nine children and two mothers, bringing the total released since Friday to 58, which includes foreign nationals. Among the newly released hostages are individuals with French, German, and Argentine citizenship.
Reports suggest that six Thai hostages, who were farm workers seized along with Israelis, are expected to be released as well. In a reciprocal gesture, 33 Palestinians were reportedly released from Israeli prisons on Monday evening, including 30 children and three women, bringing the total to approximately 150.
The White House welcomed the agreement to extend the truce, with President Joe Biden acknowledging the role of extensive US mediation and diplomacy. Efforts to increase humanitarian aid to Gaza during the pause in fighting were emphasized.
UN Secretary-General Guterres advocated for a full humanitarian ceasefire instead of a temporary truce, urging continued dialogue for the benefit of the people in the region. Guterres called for the immediate and unconditional release of hostages held by Hamas.
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, expressed that an extended ceasefire could provide an opportunity for the international community to work towards a political solution to the ongoing conflict.
As negotiations continue, the two-day extension offers a brief respite, but the fragility of the situation underscores the challenges in reaching a sustainable and lasting resolution to the hostilities in the region.