Israel-Hamas ceasefire resumes after second release of prisoners and hostages

26 November 2023, 14:54

Girl reunited with uncle
Israeli girl is reunited with uncle. Picture: PA

The tense truce had been under threat after Hamas accused Israel of violating the agreement.

The tense ceasefire between Israel and Hamas appeared to be back on track early on Sunday after the release of a second group of militant-held hostages and Palestinians from Israeli prisons, but the swap followed an hours-long delay that underscored the truce’s fragility.

In a separate development, Hamas announced on Sunday that one of its top commanders – Ahmed al-Ghandour, who was in charge of northern Gaza – had been killed, without saying when or how.

Diaa Rashwan, chair of the Egyptian state information services, said Egypt had received a list of 13 hostages Hamas will release on Sunday, and another list of 39 Palestinians that Israel is expected to free.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told NBC’s Meet the Press that the US had “reason to believe” that an American hostage would be released on Sunday and said there were hopes it would be Abigail Edan, the four-year-old who lost her parents in the October 7 Hamas attack.

Mr Sullivan also said President Joe Biden would speak with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later on Sunday.

The earlier exchange was delayed Saturday evening after Hamas accused Israel of violating the agreement, which has brought the first significant pause in seven weeks of war marked by the deadliest Israeli-Palestinian violence in decades, vast destruction and displacement across the Gaza Strip, and a hostage crisis that has shaken Israel.

The deal seemed at risk of unravelling until Qatar and Egypt, which mediate with Hamas, announced late on Saturday that the obstacles to the exchange had been overcome.

The militants released 17 hostages, including 13 Israelis, while Israel freed 39 Palestinian prisoners.

APTOPIX Israel Palestinians
Israa Jaabis, centre, a Palestinian prisoner released by Israel, is hugged by relatives as he arrives home in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabel Mukaber (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Thousands of people gathered in central Tel Aviv late on Saturday to call for the release of all the estimated 240 people captured by Hamas in its October 7 rampage across southern Israel, which ignited the war. They accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of not doing enough to bring them back.

Pressure from the hostages’ families and lingering anger over Israel’s failure to prevent the attack have sharpened the dilemma facing the country’s leaders who seek to eliminate Hamas as a military and governing power while bringing all the captives back safely.

The war has already claimed the lives of more than 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians killed by Hamas in the initial attack.

More than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed, roughly two thirds of them women and minors, according to the health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

The four-day ceasefire, which began on Friday, was brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States.

Hamas is to release at least 50 Israeli hostages, and Israel 150 Palestinian prisoners. All are women and minors.

Israel has said the truce can be extended by an extra day for every additional 10 hostages freed, but has vowed to quickly resume its offensive once it ends.

Israel said early on Sunday that it had received a new list of hostages slated to be released later in the day, in the third of four scheduled swaps.

By Press Association

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