Israel and Hamas look open to extending truce on its final day, with one more hostage swap planned

Israel has said it would extend the cease-fire by one day for every 10 additional hostages released

November 27, 2023 09:07 pm | Updated 09:07 pm IST - TEL AVIV

Palestinians inspect the destruction caused by Israeli strikes on their homes in the village of Khuzaa, east of Khan Yunis near the border fence between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip on November 27, 2023, amid a truce in battles between Israel and Hamas.

Palestinians inspect the destruction caused by Israeli strikes on their homes in the village of Khuzaa, east of Khan Yunis near the border fence between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip on November 27, 2023, amid a truce in battles between Israel and Hamas. | Photo Credit: AFP

Israel and Hamas appeared open to extending a cease-fire in Gaza that has halted their deadliest and most destructive war but is set to expire after November 27, with a fourth exchange of militant-held hostages for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel planned for later in the day.

Israel has said it would extend the cease-fire by one day for every 10 additional hostages released. Hamas has also said it hopes to extend the four-day truce, which came into effect Friday after several weeks of indirect negotiations mediated by the United States, Qatar and Egypt.

But Israel also says it remains committed to crushing Hamas' military capabilities and ending its 16-year rule over Gaza after its Oct. 7 attack into southern Israel. That would likely mean 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.

Israel will resume its operations with “full force” as soon as the current deal expires if Hamas does not agree to further hostage releases, with the goal of eliminating the group and freeing the rest of the captives, government spokesperson Eylon Levy told reporters on Monday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office later said negotiations are still underway over the last planned exchange, expected on Monday, without providing further details.

Two Egyptian officials said talks are aimed at extending the cease-fire for another four days, with one saying that both sides have agreed in principle. But that official added that violence in the occupied West Bank is complicating matters, 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 authorized to brief the media.

The release of dozens of people — mostly women and children who were among the roughly 240 captured by Hamas and other militants during the Oct. 7 raid that ignited the war — has rallied Israelis behind calls to return the rest of them.

Sixty-two hostages have been released — almost all during the current truce. Previously, one was also freed by Israeli forces and two were found dead inside Gaza.

Hamas and other militants could still be holding up to 175 hostages — enough to potentially extend the cease-fire 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.

More than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed since the war began, roughly two-thirds of them women and minors, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza, which does not differentiate between civilians and combatants. More than 1,200 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 U.N. 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.

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