Israel, Hamas agree to extend truce for seventh day as hostage negotiations continue

Israel and Hamas have agreed to extend the ceasefire in their war by at least one more day — minutes before the six-day truce was due to expire.

Israel’s military said the truce would continue as mediators sought to release more hostages held in Gaza in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

The truce, extended from its initial four days, has brought the first respite in the bombardment of Gaza with much of the coastal territory of 2.3 million having been reduced to wasteland in response to a deadly rampage by Hamas militants into southern Israel on October 7.

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“In light of the mediators’ efforts to continue the process of releasing the hostages and subject to the terms of the framework, the operational pause will continue,” said the Israeli statement, released minutes before the temporary truce was due to expire.

Hamas, which freed 16 hostages in exchange for 30 Palestinian prisoners on Wednesday, said in a statement that the truce would continue for a seventh day.

The militant group earlier said Israel had refused to receive a further seven women and children, as well as the bodies of three other hostages, in exchange for extending the truce.

Both sides had said they were ready to resume fighting.

Israel has sworn to annihilate Hamas, which rules Gaza, in response to the October 7 rampage by the militant group, when Israel says gunmen killed 1200 people and took 240 hostages.

Before the truce, Israel bombarded the territory for seven weeks and killed more than 15,000 Palestinians, according to health authorities in the coastal strip.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Tel Aviv early on Thursday — his third trip to the region since the October 7 attack — and was set to meet Israeli leaders to discuss extending the temporary truce and boosting humanitarian aid into Gaza.

“Looking at the next couple of days, we’ll be focused on … doing what we can to extend the pause so that we continue to get more hostages out and more humanitarian assistance in,” Blinken said at a stop in Brussels.

US President Joe Biden was determined to secure the release of all hostages held by Hamas after American Liat Beinin was freed on Wednesday, the White House said in a statement.

The US was urging Israel to narrow the zone of combat and clarify where Palestinian civilians could seek safety during any Israeli operation in southern Gaza, US officials said on Wednesday, to prevent a repeat of the massive death toll from Israel’s northern Gaza attacks.

Ninety-seven hostages have been freed since the start of the truce, according to a Reuters tally.

The Israeli military says 145 hostages remain in Gaza.

On Wednesday night, two Russian citizens and four Thai citizens were released outside the framework of the agreement while the 10 Israeli citizens freed included five dual nationals, officials said.

They were a Dutch dual citizen, who is also a minor, three German dual citizens and one US dual citizen.

The ceasefire and release of hostages and prisoners was mediated by Qatar, another country pushing for an extended truce.


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