November 27, 2023

Israel, Hamas agree to extend ceasefire ahead of fourth hostage-prisoner swap

By Latika Bourke
November 28, 2023 — 3.39am
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Mediator Qatar said on Monday that a deal had been reached to extend a truce between Israeli and Hamas forces in Gaza by two days, continuing a pause in seven weeks of warfare that has killed thousands and laid waste to the Palestinian enclave.

The announcement, which was confirmed by the White House, comes on the final day of the four-day truce, which had been scheduled to end on Monday night.

Palestinians queue to refill gas bottles in Salah al-Din in central Gaza Strip on Monday.Credit: Bloomberg

Israel had said it would extend the ceasefire by one day for every 10 additional hostages released. Hamas had said it hoped to extend the four-day truce, which came into effect Friday after several weeks of indirect negotiations mediated by the US, Qatar and Egypt.

But Israel has also said it remained committed to crushing Hamas’ military capabilities and ending its 16-year rule over Gaza after its October 7 attack into southern Israel.

That would likely mean eventually expanding a ground offensive from devastated northern Gaza to the south, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have crammed into United Nations shelters, and where dire conditions persist despite the increased delivery of aid under the truce.

Residents of Gaza sieve though a neighbourhood destroyed by airstikes in the Khuza’a area of Khan Yunis.Credit: Getty Images

Israel said it would resume its operations with “full force” as soon as the ceasefire deal expired if Hamas does not agree to further hostage releases, government spokesperson Eylon Levy had told reporters earlier on Monday.

Egyptian officials said that violence in the occupied West Bank was complicating negotiations, with Hamas demanding an end to Israeli military raids. Hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested and scores killed in clashes with Israeli forces since the war began.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to brief the media.


The release of dozens of people over three nights – mostly women and children who were among the roughly 240 captured by Hamas and other militants during the October 7 raid that led to the latest fighting – has rallied Israelis behind calls to return the rest of them.


As of Monday, 66 hostages had been released in three exchanges for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and a fourth exchange was expected later in the night.

“We can get all hostages back home. We have to keep pushing,” two relatives of Abigail Edan, a four-year-old girl and dual Israeli-American citizen who was released Sunday, said in a statement.

Hamas and other militants could still be holding up to 175 hostages – enough to potentially extend the ceasefire for two and a half weeks – but those include a number of soldiers, and the militants are likely to make much greater demands for their release.

Earlier, the head of NATO urged Israel and Hamas to extend the truce and to facilitate the flow of more aid into southern Gaza.

Speaking ahead of a gathering of foreign ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the latest breakthroughs and warned Iran to stand down its proxies amid ongoing fears the conflict in Gaza could spark a wider regional war.

“I call on an extension of the pause because this will give the people of Gaza much-needed relief,” the secretary-general told reporters at NATO headquarters.

“It will also enable further release of hostages. The suffering we have seen underlines the need for a lasting political solution.”

Stoltenberg said that drone and rocket strikes on US positions in Syria and Iraq and commercial ships risked escalating the conflict beyond Israel and Gaza’s borders.

“Iran must rein in its proxies,” he said.

NATO does not have any active role in the conflict but did support the efforts to defeat Islamic State and it maintains capacity-building operations in Iraq, which has sent aid to Gaza.

However, its largest contributor, the United States, is Israel’s closest ally.

Respire in Gaza

More than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed since the war began – roughly two-thirds of them have been women and minors, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza, which does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

More than 1200 people have been killed on the Israeli side, mostly civilians killed in the initial attack. At least 77 soldiers have been killed in Israel’s ground offensive.

The ceasefire has given some respite to Gaza’s 2.3 million people after weeks of relentless Israeli bombardment that has driven three-quarters of the population from their homes and levelled entire neighbourhoods.

But many say it’s not nearly enough.

Amani Taha, a widow and mother of three who fled northern Gaza to stay with a host family in the southern city of Rafah, said she had only managed to get one canned meal from a UN distribution centre since the ceasefire began. She helps other families in the neighbourhood cook over firewood in return for food for her sons, ages four to 10.

She said the crowds have overwhelmed local markets and gas stations as people try to stock up on basics.

“People were desperate and went out to buy whenever they could,” she said. “They are extremely worried that the war will return.”

Iyad Ghafary, a vendor in the urban Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, said many families were still unable to retrieve the dead from under the rubble left by Israeli airstrikes, and that local authorities weren’t equipped to deal with the level of destruction.

Palestinians who remained in northern Gaza, which was home to more than a million people before the war, have emerged to scenes of widespread devastation, with building after building either demolished or heavily damaged. The Israeli military has barred Palestinians who fled south from returning.

The UN says the truce made it possible to scale up the delivery of food, water and medicine to the largest volume since the start of the war. But the 160 to 200 trucks a day is still less than half what Gaza was importing before the fighting, even as humanitarian needs have soared.

– With AP, Reuters

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Latika Bourke is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based in London.Connect via Twitter, Facebook or email.


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