The ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has been extended for a seventh day, sources from both sides said just minutes before the deal expires.
The Israeli military said Thursday that the temporary halt in fighting in the Gaza Strip would continue “in light of mediators’ efforts to continue the hostage release process and subject to the terms of the agreement.”
In a separate statement, Hamas said an agreement had been reached to extend the temporary ceasefire that initially began on Friday.
The ceasefire will be extended for at least another 24 hours.
Qatar, which mediated between the two sides, said the agreement would be extended under the same terms as in the past, under which Hamas released 10 Israeli hostages a day in exchange for 30 Palestinian prisoners.
Down to the line
Until the last hour, the prospect of an extension was in doubt after both sides failed to agree on the new list of Israeli prisoners to be released from Gaza on Thursday.
Hamas said Israel rejected a proposed list that included seven living prisoners and the remains of three prisoners the group said were killed in previous Israeli airstrikes. Israel later said Hamas had submitted an improved list, paving the way for the extension.
Talks between the two sides appear to be heating up as most women and children held by Hamas are being released.
The Palestinian group could seek a larger number of prisoner releases in exchange for the release of Israeli men and soldiers.
“There are only a limited number of civilian hostages left,” Mohamed Elmasry, an analyst at the Doha Institute of Graduate Studies, told Al Jazeera. “The longer this continues, the more difficult it will be for Hamas to produce civilian hostages, as it only has a very limited number of hostages.”
He said Hamas would likely demand far greater concessions, such as a permanent ceasefire and the release of all Palestinian prisoners, in order to release Israeli soldiers.
“Israel will want these hostages back. The question is: At what cost?” said Elmasry.
Relief in Gaza
News of Thursday’s extension was a relief for Gaza, where citizens remained uncertain about the status of the ceasefire until early Thursday morning, Al Jazeera’s Tarek Abu Azzoum said in a report from the enclave.
He said the pause in fighting meant “more humanitarian aid is allowed to enter the Gaza Strip, including water, food, medicine and even fuel.”
“Every new day of extension [of the truce] will give Palestinians a new chance to be alive and have more supplies to help them alleviate the humanitarian crisis,” he said.
International pressure for such a permanent ceasefire has increased after nearly eight weeks of Israeli bombardment and a ground campaign in Gaza. The Israeli attacks have killed at least 15,000 Palestinians, displaced three-quarters of the 2.3 million population and sparked a devastating humanitarian crisis.
Israel has welcomed the release of dozens of hostages in recent days, including 16 late Wednesday, and previously said it would maintain the ceasefire as long as Hamas continued to release prisoners.
Still, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted on Wednesday that Israel would eventually resume attacks on Gaza to root out Hamas, which has ruled Gaza for 16 years.
“Will Israel resume the fight after this phase of repatriating our abductees has been exhausted? So my answer is a resounding yes,” he said. “We will definitely not fight until the end again.”
Source : www.aljazeera.com