Israel and Hamas hint at extending truce as more captives are slated to be freed

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TEL AVIV, Israel – Monday was the last official day of an interim deal between Israel and Hamas that could have seen the release of dozens of prisoners, as signs from both sides of the Gaza conflict suggested a humanitarian truce could be extended and more people freed. .

After an additional 17 hostages were exchanged by Hamas on Sunday night for 39 Palestinians held by Israel – the third of four daily exchanges agreed as part of the main ceasefire – Hamas issued a statement saying it was “seeking to extend the four-day truce that began on Friday.”

in Video In a later post, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was open to the idea of ​​extending the rest period by 24 hours for the 10 released prisoners. In return, Israel will release a total of up to 150 more Palestinians, he said. Earlier, Israel said it could extend the deal for up to 10 days if Hamas continued to release about 240 hostages taken in attacks on Israel last month that killed nearly 1,200 people.

US President Biden announced Sunday that his administration is working with Qatar and other negotiators to extend the peace deal.

Among those freed so far are 17 Thai workers and one Filipino captured in a Hamas attack on October 7. A dual Israeli-Russian citizen was released from prison on Sunday, which Hamas said in a statement “appreciating the efforts of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s position in support of the Palestinian cause.”

Seven weeks of Israeli airstrikes and ground attacks have killed more than 13,300 Palestinians, mostly women and young people, according to Palestinian health officials. The Hamas-run Gaza Strip Health Ministry reported a rise in the death toll but did not distinguish between civilians and militants.

Until now, the daily exchange has continued at a ratio of three Palestinians for every Israeli freed, a deal that could continue if extended.

“It’s fine until we get the hostages back,” Michael Barsinai of Kibbutz Beery, one of the Israeli communities hardest hit by the Oct. 7 attacks, told NPR when asked about the possibility of extending the deal.

“We still remember those,” he said.

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Israeli youth groups fly Israeli flags as a helicopter carrying hostages released earlier on Hamas land at Schneider Medical Center on Sunday.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a recent report that the temporary ceasefire was “mainly maintained”.

“This pause has allowed the United Nations to increase the delivery of aid to Gaza and beyond,” he said.

OCHA said it was not known how many aid trucks had entered Gaza on Sunday, but it said it was around 200 the previous day.

But the results of Israel’s relentless military campaign in Gaza, which ended up being halted, were described by the agency as disappointing. About 2.2 million people, about 80% of the territory, have been displaced by the seven-week war, he said.

As the attack on Gaza began following the attack by Hamas, the Israeli army conducted operations focused on the northern territory and warned Gazans to flee to the south to avoid being harmed and killed.

Overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in shelters run by UNRWA, the UN aid agency that oversees the Palestinian territories, has led to a sharp increase in some infectious diseases and infections such as diarrhea, acute respiratory infections, skin infections and hygiene-related issues, he said. Lice.

He said the Gaza Strip was in the grip of a power outage after Israeli authorities cut off power, and fuel reserves for the territory’s only power plant had been depleted. Drinking water supplies to the south of Gaza continue to flow through two pipelines from Israel, OCHA said, while UNRWA was receiving fuel supplies to operate two seawater desalination plants supplying the south.

Meanwhile, citing the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, OCHA said vegetable market prices increased by 32 percent, while wheat and flour rose by 65 percent. He said the price of mineral water has doubled since the conflict began.

NPR’s Brian Mann in Tel Aviv contributed to this report.

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