Hamas militants have released more Israeli hostages on the fifth day of an extended six-day truce in the Israel-Hamas war, with the Jewish state expected to soon release more Palestinian prisoners. The Israeli military said 12 hostages held in Gaza, 10 Israelis and two foreign nationals, were driven to Israel. Israel is expected to free 30 Palestinian prisoners, 15 women and 15 young men, according to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Club. Hamas released 50 Israeli hostages and 19 foreigners in the first four days of the original truce agreement.
Israel has released 150 prisoners and extended the cease-fire for two days, marking Gaza’s first quiet after six weeks of Israeli bombardment and a ground offensive. Both sides agreed to extend the pause for additional hostages and Palestinian prisoners. Israel plans to continue the cease-fire if Hamas releases at least 10 Israeli hostages daily.
Qatar negotiated an extension of the cease-fire in Gaza, allowing for a significant surge in humanitarian assistance for civilians suffering across the Gaza Strip. The US has been calling for a truce as long as all hostages held by Hamas are released. The US will not stop its diplomatic efforts until all hostages are freed. A fourth swap of hostages held by Hamas for Palestinian prisoners concluded late Monday, with the Israel Defense Forces releasing 11 hostages and Israel’s prison authority freeing 33 Palestinians.
The extended cease-fire held out the prospect of a longer truce, but Israel remains adamant in its goal of crushing Hamas’ military capabilities and ending its 16-year rule over Gaza. The US has called on Israel to avoid “significant further displacement” of people in Gaza as it turns the focus of its campaign against Hamas from the northern part of the Gaza Strip toward the southern end.
Israel has instructed people to move from northern Gaza to the south, as it primarily focused its initial offensive against Hamas in the north. The United Nations reports that an estimated 1.8 million people, or about 80% of Gaza’s population, are displaced within Gaza, with 1.1 million sheltering in overcrowded U.N. facilities. Hamas and other allied militants could still be holding more than 160 hostages, potentially extending the cease-fire for more than two weeks.
The Israel-Hamas conflict is a complex and existential conflict that has been escalating since the beginning of the conflict. The hostage group includes Israeli soldiers, and militants may make stronger demands for their release. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Israel and the West Bank to maintain humanitarian aid to Gaza, release hostages, and improve civilian protections, despite analysts predicting a pause in the conflict.
The long-term end to the fighting will require the dismantlement of Hamas, not the complete elimination of its fighters or capabilities. China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, will preside over a United Nations Security Council meeting focused on the Israel-Hamas conflict. China hopes the talks will lead to a prolonged cease-fire, an end to the fighting, and alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.