Hamas terrorists are willing to extend a truce for four days and release more Israeli hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners as mediators sought a lasting halt to the conflict.
A current truce is scheduled to expire early Thursday, November 30, after a six-day pause in the conflict, sparked by deadly Hamas attacks that prompted a devastating Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip.
With 60 Israeli hostages and 180 Palestinian prisoners already released and more set to walk free on Wednesday under the agreement, Qatari mediators said they were working for a “sustainable” ceasefire.
Hamas on Wednesday “informed the mediators that it is willing to extend the truce for four days,” a source close to the group told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Under that arrangement, “the movement would be able to release Israeli prisoners that it, other resistance movements, and other parties hold during this period, according to the terms of the existing truce,” the source added.
Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesman Majed Al Ansari told a Doha news conference on Tuesday that negotiators were seeking “a sustainable truce that will lead to further negotiations and eventually to an end… to this war.”
A source with knowledge of the talks added in comments to AFP on Wednesday that discussions were “focused on building on the progress of the extended humanitarian pause agreement and to initiate further discussions about the next phase of a potential deal.”
After a 48-hour extension of an initial four-day truce, a new group of 12 hostages was freed from Gaza on Tuesday, with 30 Palestinians released by Israel.
An AFP journalist saw masked and armed fighters from the groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad hand over hostages to Red Cross officials in Rafah, near the border with Egypt.
The Israeli hostages freed were all women, including 17-year-old Mia Leimberg, who returned to Israel with her mother and aunt.
The truce agreement has brought a temporary halt to fighting that began on October 7 when Hamas poured over the border into Israel, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping about 240.
Israel’s air and ground campaign in Gaza has killed nearly 15,000 people, also mostly civilians, according to Hamas officials, and reduced large parts of the north of the territory to rubble.