The truce between Israel and Hamas enters its sixth day on Wednesday with a new expected exchange of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners, at a time when international mediators are increasing efforts to obtain a lasting ceasefire.
What there is to know
- US and Israeli intelligence chiefs in Doha to discuss Gaza;
- The four-day humanitarian truce was extended for two days, beginning Tuesday;
- 60 hostages held in Gaza and 150 Palestinian prisoners released;
- The new truce should allow the release of 20 hostages and 60 prisoners;
- The released Israeli hostages are only women and children;
- Palestinian detainees are women and young people under the age of 19;
- Hundreds of aid trucks have been able to enter the Gaza Strip since Friday;
- The humanitarian situation in Gaza remains catastrophic, according to the UN;
- Antony Blinken will visit Israel and the West Bank by the end of the week.
- According to Israel, 1,200 people were killed in the October 7 attack by Hamas;
- Around 240 people were kidnapped and taken to the Gaza Strip;
- Nearly 15,000 people were killed in the Gaza Strip, including 6,150 children;
- Gaza Civil Defense estimates that more than 7,000 people are missing.
“Glimmer of hope and humanity amid the darkness of war,” according to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, extending the truce for 48 hours, until 12 a.m. (Eastern Time) Thursday, should allow the release of 20 Hamas hostages and 60 additional Palestinian prisoners, said Qatar, the main mediator in the negotiations.
Every day since Friday, Hamas has released around ten women and children kidnapped during its bloody attack on October 7 in Israel, against the release of three times as many Palestinian prisoners. Twelve hostages (ten Israelis and two Thais) and thirty Palestinian prisoners were released again on Tuesday evening.
According to Israeli media, the government of Israel received on Tuesday the list of hostages that Hamas is to release on Wednesday. However, no official confirmation has been made.
The truce agreement, negotiated with the support also of Egypt and the United States, has already enabled the release of 60 Israeli hostages and 180 Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli prisons.
Twenty-one foreign hostages, the majority Thais living in Israel, were released outside the framework of this agreement.
Israeli authorities estimated at around 240 the number of people kidnapped and taken to Gaza on October 7, during the unprecedented attack by the Palestinian Islamist movement which cost the lives of some 1,200 people in Israel, the vast majority civilians.
Sixteen days in solitary confinement
In retaliation, Israel promised to “annihilate” Hamas, which launched its attack from the Gaza Strip, relentlessly besieging and bombarding the Palestinian territory and launching a ground offensive on October 27.
According to the Hamas government, 14,854 people, including 6,150 under the age of 18, were killed in Israeli strikes.
Few direct testimonies have so far filtered through on the living conditions of the hostages in Gaza. But the grandmother of Eitan Yahalomi, a 12-year-old released Monday, said the boy was held in solitary confinement for 16 days.
“The days he was alone were horrible,” Esther Yaeli told Israeli news site Walla. “Now Eitan seems very withdrawn. »
Mr. Netanyahu again promised Tuesday to “release all hostages” from Hamas, classified as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Israel.
“The Israeli army is ready to resume fighting. We take advantage of the break days to […] strengthen our preparation,” said Israeli Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi.
On the Palestinian side, scenes of joy greeted the prisoners released by Israel in the West Bank.
In East Jerusalem, occupied and annexed by Israel, Ahmed Salaima, a 14-year-old former Palestinian detainee, was reunited with his family on Tuesday evening, according to AFP images. He is the youngest Palestinian prisoner to have been released since the truce took effect.
“I will never thank God enough for the release of my son,” exclaimed his father, Nayef Salaima, who explained that he “lost all contact” with him when the war began.
The mediators are active
Behind the scenes, mediators are working to extend the truce beyond Thursday. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected back in Israel and the West Bank this week.
“Our main goal right now, and our hope, is to achieve a lasting truce that will lead to further negotiations and ultimately an end to the war,” Qatar Foreign Minister Majed said. Al Ansari.
“However, we work with what we have. And what we have is that we can extend [la trêve] one day each time Hamas is able to guarantee the release of at least ten hostages,” he explained.
The heads of the US and Israeli intelligence services were in Doha on Tuesday to discuss the “next phase” of a potential deal between Hamas and Israel with Qatar’s prime minister, according to a source briefed on the visit.
“We support the extension of this pause and future pauses, if necessary, in order to allow the increase of aid and to facilitate the release of all hostages”, declared for their part the heads of diplomacy of the G7 in a joint press release.
The extension of the truce in Gaza allowed the entry of new humanitarian aid trucks into the Gaza Strip, besieged and bombarded for seven weeks by the Israeli army.
Despite the arrival since November 24 of hundreds of trucks, the situation there remains “catastrophic”, judged the World Food Program (WFP), estimating that “there is a risk of famine”.
“We have had no water, no food, no flour for ten days. The situation is tough, very tough,” says Achraf Selim, a resident of Gaza. “We live here, but at the same time we don’t feel that we are living. We have no water to drink, no one helps us,” he continues.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said it had seen a “massive increase” in some contagious diseases, including 45 times more cases of diarrhea among young children than usual, even as most hospitals in the Strip of Gaza are at a standstill.
According to a White House official, the amount of humanitarian aid arriving by road in the Gaza Strip now totals 2,000 truckloads of food, fuel, medicine and equipment needed to operate water desalination infrastructure sea.
“In just over four weeks, we reached a sustained rate of 240 trucks per day,” said this manager. “We have made it very clear that when this phase of releasing the hostages is over, the current pace, or ideally higher rates, must be maintained,” he added.
Already subject to an Israeli land, sea and air blockade since 2007, the small, overpopulated territory was placed under total siege by Israel on October 9. In addition, some 1.7 of its 2.4 million inhabitants have been displaced by the war. More than half of the homes in the Gaza Strip have been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.
Thousands of Palestinians, displaced in the south of the Gaza Strip, took advantage of the truce to return to their homes in the north, the most devastated region, ignoring the ban by the Israeli army which took control of several sectors.
“I’m trying to find memories of my house,” says a Palestinian from al-Zahra, pointing to the mountains of rubble where his house stood, destroyed by Israeli strikes.
“Al-Zahra was the most beautiful city in the world and now it has disappeared,” said Zein Ashour, a young woman who also lived in this now razed neighborhood.