Hamas seeks to extend 4-day truce with Israel

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Hamas has said that it seeks to extension of the ongoing four-day truce with Israel, which has so far witnessed the release of three groups of Israeli hostages from Gaza and three groups of Palestinian prisoners and detainees from Israeli jails. The four-day pause in fighting which began on November 24, is set to expire on Monday. In an official statement on Sunday night, which was sent to the Israeli government through the mediators in Qatar, the Palestinian militant group said it wants “to extend the truce after the four-day period ends, through serious efforts to increase the number of those released from imprisonment as stipulated in the humanitarian ceasefire agreement”.

Sources in the Israeli government told IANS that the government would consider further extension of the ceasefire if more hostages in Hamas’s captivity were freed. Since the beginning of the ceasefire, 67 hostages have been released by Hamas. In exchange, Israel has released 39 Palestinian prisoners, according to the country’s prison service. Over the weekend, Qatar, which played a central role in mediating the agreement, said it too was hoping to extend the truce, which includes provision for an extension of one extra day for every 10 hostages Hamas is ready to free.

A senior Palestinian official familiar with negotiations taking place in Qatar has told the media that Hamas informed mediators that it is willing to extend the pause by two to four days and that an extension could see the release of an additional 20 to 40 Israeli prisoners. Under the terms of the current pause, a total of 50 Israeli hostages will be freed over four days in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners.

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On November 25, the second batch of the release was implemented after a delay of several hours, as Hamas accused Israel of failing to adhere to what was agreed upon under the truce, regarding the entry of relief trucks into the north of Gaza. But the UN Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) said that there is a regular flow of trucks into Gaza strip through the Rafah crossing and more trucks are likely to reach Gaza during the ceasefire period.