TEL AVIV :
ISRAEL and Hamas agreed to extend their ceasefire for two more days past Monday, the Qatari Government said, bringing the prospect of a longer halt to their deadliest and most destructive war and further exchanges of militant-held hostages for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.
The announcement, made by Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesman Majid Al Ansary in a post on X, came on the final day of the original four-day truce between the warring sides. Qatar, along with the United States and Egypt, has been the key mediator in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Israel has said it would extend the ceasefire by one day for every 10 additional hostages released.
After the Qatari announcement, Hamas confirmed it had agreed to a two- day extension “under the same terms.” But Israel says, it remains committed to crushing Hamas’ military capabilities and ending its 16-year rule over Gaza after its October 7 attack into southern Israel. That would likely mean expanding a ground offensive from devastated northern Gaza to the south, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have crammed into United Nations shelters, and where dire conditions persist despite the increased delivery of aid under the truce.
Israel will resume its operations with “full force” as soon as the current deal expires if Hamas does not agree to further hostage releases, with the goal of eliminating the group and freeing the rest of the captives, Government spokesperson Eylon Levy told reporters on Monday.
So far, 58 hostages have been released during the current truce, including 39 Israelis.
Before the truce, four hostages were freed, another rescued and two were found dead inside Gaza.
After weeks of national trauma over the around 240 people abducted by Hamas and other militants, scenes of the women and children reuniting with families have rallied Israelis behind calls to return those who remain in captivity. “We can get all hostages back home. We have to keep pushing,” two relatives of Abigail Edan, a 4-year-old girl and dual Israeli-American citizen who was released Sunday, said in a statement.
Hamas and other militants could still be holding up to 175 hostages, enough to potentially extend the cease-fire for two and a half weeks. But those include a number of soldiers, and the militants are likely to make much greater demands for their release.