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Israel And Hamas Extend Cease-Fire, Hostage Swap Negotiations Continue

Story Highlights
  • The Israeli military has made it illegal for Palestinians who fled to the south to come back.
  • The UN says that the cease-fire made it possible for more food, water, and medicine to be sent than at any other time since the war began.

International mediators were trying to extend a cease-fire in Gaza that has stopped the deadliest violence between Israelis and Palestinians in decades. The cease-fire is set to end on Monday, and Israel and Hamas were getting ready for the fourth exchange of militant-held hostages for Palestinians jailed by Israel. Israel has said that the cease-fire will last one extra day for every ten hostages that are freed. Hamas has also said that it wants to extend the four-day ceasefire, which started on Friday after weeks of talks between the US, Qatar, and Egypt that were not directly direct.

But Israel also says it is still determined to destroy Hamas’s military power and end its 16-year rule over Gaza. That would probably mean moving its ground offensive from the badly damaged northern Gaza to the south, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are still living in terrible conditions in UN shelters even though more aid is being sent there because of the truce.

Israelis want Hamas to return the rest of the 240 people it captured in its wide-ranging attack on southern Israel on October 7 that started the war. Dozens of those people, mostly women and children, have already been freed.

Seventy-two hostages have been freed; two were found dead in Gaza; and one was freed by Israeli forces.

“We can get all of the hostages back home.” Two family members of 4-year-old Abigail Edan, who is both Israeli and American and was freed on Sunday, said in a statement, “We have to keep pushing.”

Families of the hostages have led large marches and protests, saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not doing enough to bring the hostages home. The growing pressure on him could make him extend the ceasefire and give Hamas more freedoms. But Israel is still very upset about the attack on October 7 and is determined to get rid of the militant group as a threat.

“At the end of the day, we will return everyone,” Netanyahu said about the hostages as he put on body armor and visited troops in Gaza on Sunday, which was one of his few visits there. “We will keep going until the end, until we win.” We won’t let anything stop us.


As part of the four-day truce, Hamas freed 17 more hostages on Sunday. Among them were 14 Israelis. Israel, in turn, freed 39 Palestinian prisoners.

The hostages seemed to be in good health for the most part, but Elma Avraham, 84, was airlifted to Israel’s Soroka Medical Center in critical condition because she wasn’t getting enough care, the hospital said.

Nine children and three Thai citizens were released on Sunday. After freeing 17 people, Thailand said it was working to make sure the safe return of the 15 Thai hostages who were still being held by the militant group. They were the largest group of foreigners being held by the group. In Israel, most Thai workers are hired as semi-skilled farmhands.

Most of the Palestinian prisoners who were freed were teenagers who were charged with less serious crimes or throwing rocks and firebombs at Israeli soldiers during fights. Many Palestinians see Israeli prisoners, even those who were involved in attacks, as heroes who are fighting against occupation.

It is planned that 50 Israeli hostages and 150 Palestinian prisoners will be traded in a fourth exchange on Monday. This is what the cease-fire deal agreed to.

The freed hostages have mostly stayed out of the public eye, but information about how they were held captive has begun to spread.

Three relatives of Merav Raviv were freed on Friday. Raviv said that the relatives had been fed irregularly and had lost weight. One said they mostly ate bread and rice and slept on a bed made of pushed-together chairs. She said that hostages sometimes had to wait hours to go to the bathroom.


The Health Ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza says that more than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed since the war started. About two thirds of those killed were women and children. The ministry does not distinguish between civilians and combatants. On the Israeli side, more than 1,200 people have been killed, most of them civilians in the first attack. There have been 77 deaths in Israel’s ground offensive.

Three-quarters of the 2.3 million people who live in Gaza have been forced to leave their homes and whole neighborhoods have been destroyed by Israeli bombing for weeks. The pause has given them some relief.

Many people, though, say it’s not even close to enough.

A widowed mother of three named Amani Taha fled from northern Gaza to stay with a host family in the city of Rafah in the south. She said that since the cease-fire started, she had only been able to get one canned meal from a UN distribution center. She gives other families in the neighborhood firewood to cook with in exchange for food for her four to ten-year-old sons.

She said that as people try to stock up on necessities, local stores and gas stations are getting too crowded. “People were desperate and went out to buy whenever they could,” she stated. “They are extremely worried that the war will return.”

More than a million people lived in northern Gaza before the war, and when the Palestinians who stayed there came back, they saw a lot of damage. Building after building had been destroyed or badly damaged. The Israeli military has made it illegal for Palestinians who fled to the south to come back.

The UN says that the cease-fire made it possible for more food, water, and medicine to be sent than at any other time since the war began. Though 160 to 200 trucks a day is more than half of what Gaza used to bring in before the fighting, even though the need for aid has grown.

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