Israel, Hamas to release more amid efforts to extend ceasefire

  • Recent developments
  • Israel receives list of hostages expected to be released by Hamas on Wednesday – media
  • Qatar hosts Israel’s Mossad and CIA meeting to discuss possible parameters of new phase of ceasefire deal
  • The new phase also includes freeing Hamas hostages, men or soldiers

GAZA/JERUSALEM, Nov 29 (Reuters) – Hamas and Israel are expected to release more hostages and prisoners on Wednesday, the last day of a six-day ceasefire in the Gaza Strip conflict, with focus on whether Qatar, the mediator, can hold another round of talks. Extension.

Israeli media, citing the prime minister’s office, reported that Israel had received a list of hostages expected to be released by Hamas on Wednesday. The Prime Minister’s Office had no immediate comment.

Israel has said the ceasefire could be extended if Hamas releases at least 10 Israeli hostages a day. But with some women and children still held captive, keeping the guns quiet beyond Wednesday may require negotiations to free at least some Israeli men for the first time.

Palestinian militant group Hamas and its ally Islamic Jihad released 12 hostages on Tuesday, bringing the total number freed since the ceasefire began on Friday to 81. Among them are mostly Israeli women and children and foreign citizens.

The hostages — 10 Israeli women and two Thai nationals — range in age from 17 to 84 and include a mother-daughter pair. After all were given initial medical examinations they were transferred to Israeli hospitals to meet their families.

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A short time later, Israel released 30 Palestinians from the Ofer prison in the occupied West Bank and the Jerusalem detention center. The Palestinian Prisoners Club, a semi-official organization, said half were girls and the rest were teenage boys. This brings the total number of Palestinians released under the ceasefire to 180.

The hostages were among about 240 people seized by Hamas gunmen during a rampage in southern Israel on October 7. Israel says 1,200 people were killed. In retaliation, Israel bombarded Gaza under Hamas rule, killing more than 15,000 Gazans, according to health officials there.

Qatar, which mediated secret talks between Hamas and Israel that resulted in a ceasefire, hosted intelligence chiefs from Israel’s Mossad and the US’s CIA on Tuesday.

Officials discussed possible parameters of a new phase of the cease-fire agreement, including the release by Hamas of hostages not only of women and children but also of men or soldiers. They considered what it would take to achieve a ceasefire lasting more than a few days.

Qatar spoke with Hamas before the meeting to see what the group might agree to. The source added that the Israelis and Hamas are now discussing internally the ideas explored at the meeting.

Separately, foreign ministers from the Group of Seven nations on Tuesday called for a joint statement to extend the ceasefire and for more humanitarian aid.

There are about 159 hostages in Gaza. The White House said on Tuesday that it included eight to nine Americans. US national security spokesman John Kirby said the US hoped Hamas would release more Americans and that the US government would work with Qatar to end the fighting.

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“We want to see all the hostages out. These suspensions are the way to do that,” Kirby told reporters aboard the president’s plane on Tuesday.

Warning of high death toll due to disease in Gaza

Gaza is getting its first respite after seven weeks of fighting and bombardment that has reduced much of the coastal strip to rubble. It was set to expire overnight on Tuesday, but both sides agreed to extend the moratorium to allow more people to be released.

Israel’s blockade has led to the collapse of Gaza’s health care system, particularly in the north where no hospitals are functioning. The World Health Organization said more Gazans could soon die of disease than would be affected by the bombing, and many lack access to medicines, vaccines, safe water and sanitation and food.

More than two-thirds of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have lost their homes to Israeli bombardment, with thousands of families sleeping rough in makeshift shelters with what they can carry. They lack food, fuel and clean water.

“We have a dramatic humanitarian situation. At the same time, we hope for the full release of all hostages, unconditionally and immediately. But what is needed now is a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters on Tuesday.

A temporary cease-fire has allowed about 800 aid trucks to enter Gaza, and the first of three US planes carrying humanitarian supplies to Gaza landed in Egypt on Tuesday.

United Nations assistant chief Martin Griffiths traveled to the Jordanian capital of Amman on Wednesday to discuss opening the Kerem Shalom crossing for humanitarian aid from Israel into Gaza.

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The Kerem Shalom crossing, located at the junction of Israel, the Gaza Strip and Egypt, carried more than 60% of aid into Gaza prior to the current conflict.

Aid to Gaza now comes through the Rafah crossing on the Egyptian border, which is designed for pedestrians, not trucks.

Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Cairo, Mohammed Salem and Rolene Tafaqji in Gaza, Henriette Saker and Don Williams in Jerusalem, Ali Sawafta in Ramallah, Steve Holland on Air Force One and Reuters; Written by Cynthia Osterman; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Lincoln Feist.

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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A veteran reporter with nearly 25 years of experience covering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, including several wars and the signing of the first historic peace agreement between the two sides.

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