The spokesman for Qatar’s Foreign Ministry said Monday that an agreement has been reached to extend the Israel-Hamas truce for another two days.
Qatar, along with Egypt, has been the key mediator in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.
The announcement comes on the final day of a four-day truce between the warring sides.
Israel has said it would extend the cease-fire by one day for every 10 additional hostages released. Hamas has also said it hopes to extend the four-day truce, which came into effect Friday after several weeks of indirect negotiations mediated by the United States, Qatar, and Egypt.
But Israel also says it remains committed to crushing Hamas' military capabilities and ending its 16-year rule over Gaza after its Oct. 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.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office later said negotiations are still underway over the last planned exchange, expected on Monday, without providing further details.
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Two Egyptian officials said talks are aimed at extending the cease-fire for another four days, with one official saying that both sides have agreed in principle. But that official added that violence in the occupied West Bank is complicating matters, with Hamas demanding an end to Israeli military raids.
The release of dozens of people - mostly women and children who were among the roughly 240 captured by Hamas and other militants during the Oct. 7 raid that ignited the war - has rallied Israelis behind calls to return the rest of them.
Sixty-two hostages have been released - almost all during the current truce. Previously, one was also freed by Israeli forces and two were found dead inside Gaza.
“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.
On Sunday, Hamas freed 17 hostages, including 14 Israelis, and Israel released 39 Palestinian prisoners - the third such exchange under the truce.
Most hostages appeared to be physically well, but 84-year-old Elma Avraham was airlifted to Israel’s Soroka Medical Center in life-threatening condition because of inadequate care, the hospital said.
Avraham’s daughter, Tali Amano, said her mother was “hours from death” when she was brought to the hospital. Avraham is currently sedated and has a breathing tube, but Amano said she told her of a new great-grandchild who was born while she was in captivity.
Avraham suffered from several chronic conditions that required regular medications but was stable before she was kidnapped, Amano said Monday.
Also among those released Sunday were three Thai nationals. With a total of 17 freed, Thailand said it was pursuing the safe return of the 15 remaining Thai hostages, who were the largest group of non-Israelis held by the militants. Many Thais work in Israel, largely as farm laborers.
The Palestinian prisoners released were mostly teenagers accused of throwing stones and firebombs during confrontations with Israeli forces, or of less serious offenses. Many Palestinians view prisoners held by Israel, including those implicated in attacks, as heroes.
The freed hostages have mostly stayed out of the public eye, but details of their captivity have started to trickle out.
Merav Raviv, whose three relatives were released on Friday, said they had been fed irregularly and lost weight. One reported eating mainly bread and rice and sleeping on a makeshift bed of chairs pushed together. Hostages sometimes had to wait for hours to use the bathroom, she said.
The U.N. says the truce made it possible to scale up the delivery of food, water, and medicine to the largest volume since the start of the war. But the 160 to 200 trucks a day is still less than half what Gaza was importing before the fighting, even as humanitarian needs have soared.