The truce, established last week, marks the initial cessation of hostilities in the past seven weeks, during which Hamas launched an attack on Israel, resulting in the loss of 1,200 lives and the reintegration of approximately 240 hostages into Gaza.
Egyptian, Qatari, and U.S. negotiators are nearing an agreement to extend the expiring four-day truce in Gaza, set to conclude on Monday, according to Egyptian security sources. The international community is exerting increased pressure to prolong the deal, which has temporarily halted seven weeks of conflict.
Hamas, the Palestinian group, is advocating for a four-day extension, while Israel is pushing for day-by-day renewals. Ongoing negotiations are centered on determining the release of Palestinian prisoners. An Israeli official has reaffirmed that Israel is willing to extend the truce by an extra day for every additional 10 hostages freed, releasing three times the number of Palestinians on each occasion. The official emphasized that the number of additional days is capped at five.
According to a Palestinian official familiar with the truce talks, both Hamas and Israel have displayed a positive attitude towards extending the pause in fighting, but a final decision has not yet been reached.
On Sunday, Hamas released 17 individuals, including a 4-year-old Israeli-American girl, bringing the total released by the militant group since Friday to 58, including foreigners. Israel also released 39 teenage Palestinian prisoners on Sunday, making the total number of Palestinians freed under the truce 117.
As per the current agreement, Hamas is obligated to release a total of 50 Israeli women and children held hostage in Gaza. This means that 11 are still to be freed on Monday, and there is no specified limit in the deal on the number of foreigners it can release.
A spokesperson for the Israeli government stated on Monday that the total number of hostages still held in Gaza is now 184, including 14 foreigners and 80 individuals with dual Israeli nationality.
Both Israel and Hamas have raised concerns about the lists for Monday, and Qatari mediators are working with them to address the issues and prevent any delays, according to an official briefed on the matter.
The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is currently reviewing the list of Palestinian prisoners received from Hamas for release on Monday, and further information will be provided when available.
Hamas spokesperson Osama Hamdan, in an interview with Lebanon’s LBC broadcaster, stated that the group intends to identify additional hostages for release, aiming to extend the truce. Hamas has previously asserted that it does not hold all the hostages brought to Gaza.
Prime Minister Netanyahu declared over the weekend that once the truce concludes, Israel will resume efforts with full force to achieve its goals, including the elimination of Hamas, preventing Gaza from returning to its previous state, and securing the release of all hostages.
Palestinians in Gaza expressed their hope for an extension of the truce on Monday. Some were visiting homes destroyed by weeks of Israeli bombardment, while others queued for essential aid provided by the United Nations’ relief agency UNRWA, such as flour.
The al-Sultan family, displaced from their homes in the north of the Gaza Strip, took a brief respite by the sea during the truce. Hazem Al Sultan, their mother, mentioned, “We used these four days (of truce) and came to the beach in Deir Al-Balah to allow our children to have some fun. We are anticipating the end of these four days, and we don’t know what will happen to us next.”
Palestinians in Ramallah gave freed prisoners a jubilant reception, as reported by the Palestinian news agency WAFA. Seventeen-year-old Omar Abdullah Al Hajj, released on Sunday, shared his experience of being kept in the dark about the outside world, cramped living conditions, and the uncertainty of his release.
The truce agreed upon last week is the first cessation of fighting in the seven weeks since Hamas attacked Israel, resulting in 1,200 casualties and around 240 hostages taken back into Gaza. In response, Israel carried out bombardments and a ground offensive in the north, resulting in approximately 14,800 Palestinian deaths and hundreds of thousands displaced, according to Gaza health authorities.
Diplomatically, Qatar, Egypt, the United States, the European Union, and Spain are actively working to extend the ceasefire, as mentioned by the Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, during a conference in Barcelona. Al-Maliki emphasized the need for international pressure on Israel to extend the truce indefinitely, warning of a doubled death toll if hostilities resume on Tuesday.
The European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, acknowledged the importance of the current truce but stressed that more efforts are required to alleviate the situation. He also urged Israel not to “recolonize Gaza” and advocated for the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza as the best guarantee of Israel’s peace and security.
Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares stated that Hamas, lacking “an agenda for peace,” could no longer govern Gaza after hostilities end.