Intensive discussions are currently underway about a second extension of the ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war, as the agreed pause in fighting is about to expire.
Negotiations continued on Wednesday over the terms of an extension to the ceasefire as its end neared on Thursday morning. The talks, involving the two parties as well as the United States, Qatar and Egypt, focused on the length of the extension and prisoner exchanges.
The first four-day ceasefire began on Friday after intensive mediation. Despite a few minor clashes, it was then extended for another two days.
During this period, Hamas released 81 of the prisoners it took hostage on October 7, mostly Israeli nationals.
In return, Israel released a total of 180 Palestinian prisoners, including women and children, many of whom had been held in administrative detention for years without charge. At the same time, Israel has arrested almost as many Palestinians as part of its prisoner releases.
The Israeli Broadcasting Corporation reported that Israel is considering a further extension.
“It depends on Hamas’ behavior,” an Israeli politician was quoted as saying, adding that negotiations for a new agreement would soon be discussed at the political level.
Israel had previously said it was prepared to extend the ceasefire by one day for every 10 hostages released by Hamas.
Ghazi Hamad, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, told Al Jazeera: “We are working hard and hope that we can extend the ceasefire for more days until we reach the complete end.” We are ready to release more hostages for the extension .”
“I hope it can be implemented today,” he added.
Negotiations about the extension have been ongoing for the past two days.
On Tuesday, the heads of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Israel’s Mossad met in Qatar to discuss the issues.
Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed al-Ansari said negotiators were seeking “a permanent ceasefire that will lead to further negotiations and ultimately an end… to this war.”
On Wednesday, Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan reported from occupied East Jerusalem that there was “leaked information that there are negotiations between Israel and Hamas to release more prisoners and extend the ceasefire” by five days.
If successful, the next phase of the ceasefire and hostage release will reportedly be based on five categories, our correspondent said: “Israeli prisoners; older men too old to be reservists; female soldiers; reservist soldiers; and then the bodies of Israelis killed before or during captivity.
“There also seem to be positive voices coming from Hamas in this regard. According to the leaked information on the categories, Hamas has stated that it is keen to respect the wishes of Israelis,” Khan added.
Hamad confirmed that the group was ready to discuss the release of captured men and military personnel, as well as women and children.
“Now this point is on the table,” the Hamas official told Al Jazeera. “For all prisoners, whether military or civilian. We are still discussing with the mediators to reach a satisfactory compromise.”
Analyst Mohammed Cherkaoui said negotiations had now entered a “pragmatic” phase involving various mediators and interest groups.
“The good news is that we still have good momentum and all channels are open and political will is flourishing from all sides to continue on this path,” he told Al Jazeera.
Khan said Hamas was seeking a “more permanent ceasefire.” But within Israel there is great pressure from the right who do not want the ceasefire to last indefinitely.
“There is a deadline on Sunday that people keep talking about. After Sunday – if the ceasefire lasts that long – the Israelis will want to invade again. It is not a question of if, but when,” Khan said.
However, Hamad noted that international pressure had increased on Israel to force it to maintain the ceasefire, adding that Hamas was ready to discuss a full ceasefire and the release of all prisoners on both sides.
“I think the world has had enough of the situation in Gaza,” he said. “Because of Israeli crimes, Israeli genocide against our people, there is strong and enormous pressure on Israel to end the war.”
Source : www.aljazeera.com