- The latest developments:
- Hamas publishes a list of 30 detainees to be released, including the first Palestinian-Israeli citizens
- An Israeli spokesman says that Israel will study any reasonable proposal
- The Palestinians say that another 160 bodies have been recovered from the rubble of Gaza
GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel and the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) held negotiations through mediators on Wednesday over a possible further extension of the truce in Gaza, with hours remaining to reach an agreement before fighting resumes after a six-day hiatus.
Israeli public broadcaster Kan reported that the families of Israeli hostages were informed on Wednesday of the names of those scheduled to be released later in the day, the last group to be released under the truce unless negotiators succeed in extending it.
The Hamas movement in Gaza published a list of the names of 15 women and 15 teenagers who will be released from Israeli prisons in exchange. For the first time since the start of the truce, this campaign included Palestinian citizens of Israel, in addition to residents of the occupied territories.
A Palestinian official told Reuters that although both sides wanted to extend the truce, an agreement had not yet been reached. The official added that discussions are still ongoing with mediators Egypt and Qatar.
Israeli government spokesman Elon Levy said that Israel would consider any serious proposal, although he refused to provide further details.
“We are doing everything we can to get these hostages out. Nothing will be confirmed until it is confirmed,” Levy told reporters in Tel Aviv. “We are talking about a very sensitive negotiation in which human lives are at stake.”
He said that once the hostage release was over, fighting would resume: “This war will end with the end of Hamas.”
So far, militants in Gaza have released 60 Israeli women and children from among 240 hostages they had kidnapped in a deadly attack on October 7, under the agreement that guaranteed the first truce in the war. 21 foreigners, most of them Thai farm workers, were also released under separate parallel agreements. In return, Israel released 180 Palestinian security detainees, all of them women and teenagers.
The initial four-day truce was extended for 48 hours as of Tuesday, and Israel says it would be willing to extend it further as long as Hamas releases 10 hostages a day. But with fewer women and children still in captivity, it could mean agreeing to terms governing the release of at least some Israeli men for the first time.
Tuesday’s release also included for the first time hostages held by Islamic Jihad, a separate armed group, as well as by Hamas itself. Hamas’ ability to secure the release of hostages held by other factions has been an issue in previous talks.
The truce provided the first respite for the war launched by Israel to eliminate Hamas after the “Black Saturday” raid carried out by gunmen who killed 1,200 people on the Jewish day of rest, according to an Israeli census.
Since then, Israeli bombing has turned much of Gaza into a wasteland, with more than 15,000 people confirmed dead, 40% of them children, according to Palestinian health authorities considered reliable by the United Nations.
It is feared that more people are buried under the rubble. The Palestinian Ministry of Health said that another 160 bodies were recovered from under the rubble during the past 24 hours of the truce, and about 6,500 people are still missing.
On Tuesday, Qatar hosted the intelligence chiefs of the Israeli Mossad and the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
A source familiar with the matter said that the officials discussed possible criteria for a new phase of the truce agreement, including Hamas releasing hostage Israeli men or soldiers. They also considered what might be necessary to achieve a ceasefire that lasts more than a few days.
The source said that Qatar spoke with Hamas before the meeting to find out what the group might agree to, and that the opposing parties are now internally discussing the ideas that were presented at the meeting.
There was no immediate news on whether the final group to be released on Wednesday would include the youngest hostage, 10-month-old baby Kfir Bibas, who is being held with his four-year-old brother and their parents. Their relatives made a special appeal after they were removed from the penultimate group released on Tuesday.
The truce has held throughout the six days despite reports from both sides of relatively small-scale violations, although both sides say they are prepared to resume the war at full force once it ends.
An Israeli army spokesman said that the truce was still holding until Wednesday. The Palestinians accused Israeli forces of shooting at homes near the beach in Khan Yunis from the sea, and of shooting in Beit Hanoun, north of Gaza.
(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Cairo, Muhammad Salem and Roline Tufakji in Gaza, Henriette Shukr and Dan Williams in Jerusalem, Ali Sawafta in Ramallah, and Steve Holland on Air Force One and the Reuters offices – Prepared by Muhammad Salem for the Arab Bulletin – Editing by Muhammad Salem) Writing by Cynthia Osterman and Peter Graff. Editing by Lisa Shoemaker, Lincoln Feast and Nick Macfie
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A senior correspondent 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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