London: Qatar has said that an agreement has been reached to extend the temporary truce in Gaza between Israel and Hamas by two more days. In a social media post on Monday, Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari said that the truce between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip will be extended by two days, opening the way for further releases of hostages and prisoners. This follows the release of eleven hostages by Hamas on Monday in fourth such swap under the original four-day truce which had begun on Friday. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock welcomed the release which included two German teenagers. She said that her thoughts were with their families who will be reunited with them after 52 days of suffering and despair. On the other hand, Israel freed thirty three Palestinian prisoners in the early hours today.
There was no immediate confirmation from the Israeli side of the extension, which was nevertheless hailed by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. U.S. President Joe Biden thanked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as Qatar and Egypt, who facilitated indirect talks between the two sides for a pact that would free more hostages and allow more aid into Gaza. Reportedly, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Israel and West Bank on his way to the United Arab Emirates to attend UN Climate Summit, COP 28, to be held later this week.
The four-day truce in Gaza marked the first major diplomatic breakthrough in the conflict. During the four days of the truce, Hamas has released a total of 69 hostages in exchange for the release of 150 Palestinian prisoners. The deal also brought more shipments of fuel and supplies into the besieged strip. Under the terms of the original truce agreement, Hamas needs to release 10 hostages for each additional day’s pause in the fighting.