Israel-Hamas war: The extended truce in Gaza, new releases expected

New hostages held by Hamas are to be released on Tuesday in exchange for prisoners held by Israel, after the truce in the Gaza Strip was extended for two days, offering additional respite to residents of the devastated Palestinian territory.

Shortly before the end of the four-day truce, the United States and Qatar announced its extension until 5 a.m. GMT on Thursday (Wednesday midnight EST), to allow the release of approximately 20 hostages and 60 additional prisoners, i.e. a ratio of one hostage for three prisoners as in previous days.

The Israeli government received the list of ten hostages to be released during the day, according to Israeli media.

This pause in fighting should at the same time allow the entry of new humanitarian aid trucks into the Gaza Strip, besieged and bombarded for seven weeks by the Israeli army in retaliation for the bloody attack launched by Hamas against Israel on the 7th. october.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hailed a “ray of hope […] amid the darkness of war.”

Despite the arrival via Egypt, since November 24, of hundreds of trucks loaded with emergency aid, the needs remain immense and the humanitarian situation “catastrophic”, according to a UN envoy, in the small territory where 1.7 of the 2.4 million inhabitants were displaced by the war.

The truce agreement negotiated under the aegis of Qatar, with the support of Egypt and the United States, has so far enabled the release of 50 hostages held in Gaza since October 7, and 150 Palestinians. imprisoned in Israeli prisons.

Nineteen other hostages, largely foreign workers in Israel, were released by Hamas outside the framework of this agreement.

An “incomplete” joy

But in Israel, the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his government remain subject to very strong pressure from public opinion, traumatized by the Hamas attack, which demands the return of the hostages.

The Israeli military estimated that around 240 people were kidnapped on October 7 and taken to Gaza.

Israel’s Western allies, starting with the United States, have also increased calls for an extension of the truce.

During the night, eleven Israeli hostages were released from the Gaza Strip, including three with dual French nationality, Erez and Sahar Kalderon, 12 and 16 years old, and Eitan Yahalomi.

Lawyers for the Kalderon family expressed their “tremendous joy”, but “incomplete” joy because the father of Erez and Sahar remains in the hands of Hamas.

Shortly after, Israel released 33 Palestinians held in its prisons.

“I can’t describe what I feel. “It’s an indescribable joy,” said one of them, Mohamed Abou al-Humus, upon returning home to East Jerusalem, occupied and annexed by Israel, where he hugged his mother, according to a team from the ‘AFP on site.

“It’s the best feeling in the world to have all your children around you, by your side,” she reacted.

But in Beitunia, in the occupied West Bank, where freed prisoners arrived in a white bus, the celebrations were short-lived: a young Palestinian was “shot and killed” during clashes with Israeli forces, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Defense. health.

New extension?

Shortly before the renewal of the truce, the Israeli Prime Minister’s office had agreed to include “50 prisoners” including Ahed Tamimi, a young icon of the Palestinian cause arrested in early November, in the list of Palestinians likely to be released.

Meanwhile, mediators are working behind the scenes to further extend the truce beyond Thursday, in order to increase releases and allow the delivery of humanitarian aid, entry into the Gaza Strip is subject to with the green light from Israel.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will once again travel to Israel and the occupied West Bank this weekend to meet Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mr. Blinken “will emphasize the need to continue providing humanitarian assistance to Gaza, secure the release of all hostages and improve the protection of civilians in Gaza,” a US official said.

On the Israeli side, the army and the government have reiterated in recent days their intention to eventually resume fighting, in order to “destroy” Hamas, “ensure that the Gaza Strip will never be a threat to the security of Israel and release all the hostages.”

The government also agreed overnight on a “war” extension of 30.3 billion shekels (CA$11.2 billion).

” No help “

In Israel, 1,200 people, the vast majority civilians, according to the authorities, were killed in the attack carried out on October 7 by Hamas commandos, unprecedented in the history of the country.

In retaliation, Israel promised to “annihilate” Hamas, classified as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Israel, relentlessly bombing the Palestinian territory and launching a ground offensive on October 27, until the truce. .

In the Gaza Strip, 14,854 people, including 6,150 under the age of 18, were killed by Israeli strikes, according to the Hamas government.

Already subject to an Israeli land, sea and air blockade since 2007, the overpopulated territory was placed under total siege by Israel on October 9, and has since suffered serious shortages of water, food, fuel, medicine and of electricity.

More than half of the homes in the Gaza Strip have been damaged or destroyed by the war, according to the UN.

“The humanitarian situation in Gaza remains catastrophic and requires the urgent entry of additional aid in a fluid, predictable and continuous manner to relieve the unbearable suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza,” the Palestinian envoy declared overnight. UN Middle East, Tor Wennesland.

The needs are “unprecedented” in the territory, where “200 trucks per day for at least two months” would be necessary, according to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

“We are suffering because we have no food, no water, they are not giving us any help. Our five children don’t have diapers either,” lamented Fouad Hara, a Palestinian from Gaza City, displaced by the fighting in the south of the territory.

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