Israel-Gaza truce enters final day with talk of extension

AFP , Ahram Online , Monday 27 Nov 2023

The truce between Israel and Hamas entered its final 24 hours Monday, with the Palestinian resistance group saying it was willing to extend the pause after a third exchange of detainees.

A crowd surrounds a Red Cross bus carrying Palestinians prisoners released from Israeli jails in exc
A crowd surrounds a Red Cross bus carrying Palestinians children released from Israeli jails, in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, in exchange for detainees released from the Gaza Strip, on November, 2023. AFP


The pause that began Friday has seen over 100 Palestinian children and women freed from Israeli occupation jails, in return dozens of people held in captivity in Gaza were released.

Attention now has turned to whether the truce will be extended before its scheduled end early on Tuesday morning.

"That's my goal, that's our goal, to keep this pause going beyond tomorrow so that we can continue to see more hostages come out and surge more humanitarian relief into those in need in Gaza," US President Joe Biden said Sunday.

He said he would like the fighting to be paused for "as long as prisoners keep coming out."

"I get a sense that all the players in the region are looking for a way to end this so the hostages are all released."

Hamas has signaled, in statement on Sunday night its willingness to extend the truce, with a source telling AFP the group told mediators they were open to prolonging it by "two to four days".

"The resistance believes it is possible to ensure the release of 20 to 40 Israeli prisoners" in that time, the source close to the movement said.

Under the truce, 50 prisoners held by the resistance were to be freed over four days in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners. A built-in mechanism extends it if at least 10 Israeli captives are released each extra day.

One potential complicating factor is the fact that some captives are believed to be held by groups other than Hamas.

The third group released Sunday included 39 Palestinian children, who have been received by rapturous crowds waving Palestinian and Hamas flags and 13 Israeli.

An American citizen were also released and Hamas separately freed three Thai nationals and a Russian-Israeli citizen, who the group said was released "in response to the efforts of Russian President Vladimir Putin" and his "support of the Palestinian cause".

Mounting pressure 

Israel has faced mounting pressure to extend the pause mediated by Qatar, Egypt and the United States, though its leaders have been keen to dismiss any suggestions of a lasting halt to the war.

"We continue until the end -- until victory," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in Gaza on Sunday, on the first visit by an Israeli premier since 2005.

His office has proposed a war budget of 30 billion shekels ($8 billion) for 90 days.

Wearing green military fatigues and surrounded by soldiers, Netanyahu vowed to free all the captives and "eliminate Hamas", in footage posted online by his office.

"Nothing will stop us, and we are convinced that we have the power, the strength, the will, and the determination to achieve all the war's goals," he said.

Elsewhere in Gaza, residents picked through heaps of rubble where homes once stood searching for belongings after weeks of brutal bombardment.

​In seven weeks of war on Gaza, Israel killed nearly 15,000 Palestinians, more than two-thirds of them are women and children.

"I came to see if there was anything left if there was anything I could salvage. We fled with nothing," said Ous sama al Bass, inspecting the ruins of his home in Al-Zahra, south of Gaza City.

"Everything is lost," he said. "We're tired. That's enough. We can't take it anymore."

On the outskirts of Gaza City, families took to the road on foot to head south, pushing luggage and relatives in wheelchairs, and carrying children in their arms.

Israel has forced the Palestinians in Gaza to leave the north to the south, but it has also striked this presumed more safe areas and now wansts the southern city of Khan Yunis to evacuate.

The UN estimates that 1.7 million of Gaza's 2.4 million people have been displaced by Israel.

The pause in fighting has allowed more aid to reach Palestinians struggling to survive with shortages of water and other essentials.

But Adnan Abu Hansa, a spokesman for the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), warned of "unprecedented" humanitarian needs.

"We should send 200 lorries a day continuously for at least two months," he said.

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