More Israeli hostages expected to be freed after Gaza truce extended

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  • Hamas official says seeking new deal with Israel to swap “other categories” of hostages

CAIRO/JERUSALEM, Nov 28 (Reuters) – An Israel-Hamas truce in the Gaza Strip stretched into a fifth day on Tuesday as the two sides completed the release of Israeli hostages and detained Palestinians and looked poised to free more as the pause in fighting was extended by two days.

Hamas took about 240 hostages during an Oct. 7 incursion into southern Israel that killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli figures, prompting Israel to retaliate by bombing the coastal enclave and launching a ground offensive in its north.

Israel said 11 Israelis had returned to the country from the Gaza Strip on Monday, bringing to 69 the total of Israeli and foreign hostages the Palestinian group has freed since Friday under the truce.

The White House and Qatari negotiators said on Monday the original four day pause in fighting, due to expire at 0500 GMT on Tuesday, had been extended for two more days.

Israel has not commented on any agreement to extend the truce but, in what may be an implicit confirmation, the Israeli prime minister’s office said the government approved the addition of 50 female prisoners to its list of Palestinians for potential release if additional Israeli hostages are freed.

Hamas said it had sought to revise terms under which it would free hostages beyond the women and children it has already released.

“We hope the Occupation (Israel) abides (by the agreement) in the next two days because we are seeking a new agreement, besides women and children, whereby other categories that we have that we can swap,” Hamas official Khalil Al-Hayya told Al Jazeera late on Monday.

That, he said, would entail “going towards an additional time period to continue swapping people at this stage”.

Among hostages Hamas still holds are fathers and husbands of those it has freed in recent days.

Israel previously said it would extend the truce by one day for every 10 more hostages released, providing some respite from the war.

Israel’s government has received a list of hostages who are expected to be released on Tuesday, Israel’s Army Radio reported, citing the Israeli prime minister’s office.

The Axios news website reported the list contained 10 hostages. There was no immediate comment from the prime minister’s office.

CLASHES OUTSIDE PRISON

The Israel Prison Service said 33 Palestinian prisoners were released on Monday from Israel’s Ofer prison in the occupied West Bank and from a detention centre in Jerusalem, bringing the total number of Palestinians it has freed since Friday to 150.

Israeli forces clashed with some of the dozens of Palestinians who gathered outside Ofer prison to await the prisoner release, the Palestinian health ministry said.

Some of the protesters waved the flags of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian militant group.

The ministry said a Palestinian was killed in the area, and that it was unclear if he had participated in the clashes. Palestinian media reported he was shot dead. Israel had no immediate comment on the incident.

In response to the Oct. 7 attack, Israel has bombarded the Gaza Strip and mounted a ground offensive in the north. More than 15,000 Palestinians have been killed, Gaza’s Hamas-run government says, and hundreds of thousands displaced.

Each day since the truce began on Friday, Hamas has released some hostages while Israel has freed some Palestinians it holds. Of the 69 hostages freed by Hamas were 51 Israelis and 18 foreigners.

Ido Dan, a relative of Israelis Sahar Calderon, 16, and Erez Calderon, 12, spoke of the joy at their release on Monday mixed with anxiety about their father, Ofer, who is still being held.

“It is difficult to go from a state of endless anxiety about their fate to a state of relief and joy,” Dan said. “This is an exciting and heart-filling moment but … it is the beginning of a difficult rehabilitation process for Sahar and Erez, who are still young and have been through an unbearable experience.”

The U.S. State Department said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken would visit Israel, the West Bank and the United Arab Emirates this week to discuss sustaining aid flows to Gaza and freeing all hostages as well as U.S. principles for the future of Gaza and the need for an independent Palestinian state.

The original truce agreement allowed more aid trucks into Gaza, where the civilian population faces shortages of food, fuel, drinking water and medicine. An estimated 1.8 million of the territory’s 2.3 million population are internally displaced, according to the United Nations.

While describing the extension as “a glimpse of hope and humanity,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said two more days was not enough time to meet Gaza’s aid needs.

Reporting By Reuters bureaux; Additional reporting by Rami Amichay in Tel Aviv and Ali Sawafta in Ramallah; Writing by Arshad Mohammed and Lincoln Feast; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Raju Gopalakrishnan

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A senior correspondent with nearly 25 years’ experience covering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict including several wars and the signing of the first historic peace accord between the two sides.



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