War in the Middle East: agreement between Israel and Hamas, another two days of truce in Gaza

The new Israelis released are nine children and two mothers. According to the Guardian, there are still 184 people in the hands of the militiamen

two more days of truce in Gaza. Thanks to the mediation of Qatar, Egypt and the USA, Israel and Hamas have reached an agreement that will allow the release of another 20 Israeli hostages (10 for each additional day of ceasefire) in exchange for 60 Palestinian prisoners in the usual ratio of 1 to 3.

The extension of the truce – which would otherwise have expired tomorrow morning – also brought with it the unblocking of the negotiation on the fourth tranche of hostages which had become complicated.

The Israeli prison authority said 33 Palestinian prisoners were released “overnight” under the terms of the agreement. The release brought to 150 the total number of detainees freed by Israel during the initial four-day lull in fighting.

In the end, in the evening, eleven prisoners left Gaza – 9 children and 2 mothers, all from the Nir Oz kibbutz – in exchange for the release of 30 minors and three Palestinian women: among these Yasmin Shaaban and Etaf Jaradat, both from Jenin, and Nufouth Hamad, from the Sheikh Jaarh neighborhood in east Jerusalem. Along with the Israeli hostages, Hamas also freed 6 Thai citizens.

According to reports from Haaretz, in recent weeks the leader of Hamas in the Strip Yahya Sinwar met some of the hostages held in the tunnels and stopped with them to speak in Hebrew. An important proof of the fact that the militia leader is still in Gaza.

The possibility of extending the pause in the fighting – all the conditions contained in the original agreement were reiterated, therefore also the entry of humanitarian aid into the Strip – was already foreseen by the first agreement which had as its objective the release of 50 hostages in exchange for 150 Palestinians. But it was not at all obvious that this would actually happen. US President Joe Biden welcomed the extension, claiming to have “constantly pressed” for such an outcome, while UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres spoke of “a ray of hope”.

Hamas also made it known that the next exchanges could concern not only women and children but also other hostages, in particular the Israeli soldiers kidnapped on October 7. A negotiation, explained Izzat Arshak of the political office of the faction, to be conducted however in a “separate” manner compared to that carried out for civilians.

Two Israeli Bedouins who have trespassed in the Strip have also been prisoners of Hamas for years, which also holds the remains of two soldiers who died in the 2014 conflict. The militiamen then informed Egypt and Qatar that they had identified other Israeli hostages in the Strip: these are of those in the hands of the Islamic Jihad or even of simple citizens who entered Israel on 7 October following the terrorists to raid the kibbutzim.

The stalemate in the release of Palestinian hostages and detainees that occurred this morning was caused by both sides. Israel accused Hamas of violating the provisions of the agreement by separating the families, or of wanting to free the children but not the mothers. For its part, Hamas wanted Israel to release six prisoners arrested before October 7, invoking the principle of seniority, i.e. the need to release prisoners held for the longest time first. Another hitch concerned the name of Nufouth Hamad, the girl sentenced a week ago to 12 years for stabbing an Israeli woman. The white smoke over the extension of the truce also allowed the resolution of these problems.

Having reached the agreement, Israel began to inform the families of the kidnapped: immediately after their handover to the Red Cross and their exit from Gaza, the hostages – taken over by Israeli security – were taken to hospitals where they will be examined again . But if the civilians and displaced people of Gaza can count on a few more days of calm, it does not mean that the war will not resume. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was clear: “The fighting – he warned while meeting a group of soldiers – will be even bigger and will take place throughout the Gaza Strip. We will not stop until we are finished”.

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