Israel and Hamas have agreed to extend their cease-fire until Wednesday, raising the prospect of further exchanges of militant-held hostages for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel and a longer halt to their deadliest and most destructive war.
Eleven Israeli women and children freed by Hamas entered Israel on Monday night after more than seven weeks in captivity in Gaza in the fourth swap under the original four-day truce. Thirty-three Palestinian prisoners released by Israel arrived early Tuesday in east Jerusalem and the West Bank town of Ramallah. The prisoners were greeted by loud cheers as their bus made its way through the streets of Ramallah.
The deal for two additional days of cease-fire raised hopes for further extensions, which would also allow more aid into Gaza, which has been battered by weeks of Israeli bombardment and a ground offensive that have driven three-quarters of the 2.3 million population from their homes.
But Israel says it remains committed to crushing Hamas’ military capabilities and ending its 16-year rule over Gaza. That would likely mean expanding a ground offensive from devastated northern Gaza to the south.
Roughly 240 hostages were captured by Hamas in its Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel that ignited the war. More than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed since the war began, according to the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry in Gaza. About 1,200 people have been killed in Israel, mostly during the initial incursion by Hamas.
– Freed Israeli hostage describes deteriorating conditions while being held by Hamas.
– Blinken will return to the Middle East as US hopes for longer cease-fire and more hostage releases.
– Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war
Here’s what’s happening in the war:
CAIRO – The Gaza Health Ministry says the dialysis unit at Shifa Hospital has been reopened and is receiving patients.
In a brief statement on Tuesday, the ministry invited patients to resume treatment.
Israeli troops raided Shifa, the territory’s largest hospital, earlier this month, leading to the evacuation of hundreds of patients and thousands of displaced people who had been sheltering there. The hospital had run low on food, water and electricity, and was no longer able to accept patients.
Israel says Hamas used the hospital for military purposes. The military revealed a secret tunnel leading to several rooms under the complex, along with other evidence of what it says was a militant presence. Hamas and hospital staff have denied Israeli allegations that Hamas had a major command and control center there.
The World Health Organization says there are still 180 patients, including 22 on kidney dialysis, and seven health care workers at Shifa.
PARIS – France’s foreign minister has given behind-the-scenes glimpses into what she described as the “difficult” Qatar-brokered hostage-release negotiations between Israel and Hamas, as she expressed relief that three French citizens were among the latest group swapped on Monday.
“Until the very last moment, you don’t know. Lists are exchanged but afterward there have often been difficulties,” Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna said Tuesday on RTL radio.
She said “there were concerns and questions for part of the day” on Monday about the latest exchange and that she’d spoken to ministerial counterparts from several Arab nations to push the process along. Finally, “everything went well. Yes, I won’t hide that at the end of the day, there is a big ‘Phew’ of relief.”
The three French citizens released Monday were all children, ages 12 and 16. France still counts five citizens missing, some of them thought to be held hostage, from the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel that triggered their deadliest and most destructive war.
UNITED NATIONS – The head of the United Nations has reiterated his call for a long-term truce in Gaza and the release of all hostages held by Palestinian militants.
In a statement Tuesday, ahead of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Palestinians were enduring “one of the darkest chapters” in their history.
He called for “a long-term humanitarian cease-fire, unrestricted access for lifesaving aid, the release of all hostages, the protection of civilians and an end to violations of international humanitarian law.”
Israel and Hamas have agreed to extend a temporary cease-fire through Wednesday, with more planned releases of militant-held hostages and Palestinians imprisoned in Israel. But Israel has vowed to resume the war to destroy Hamas once it stops releasing hostages.
CANBERRA, Australia – Relatives and a friend of Israelis kidnapped and killed by Hamas visited Australia’s Parliament House on Tuesday, sharing personal stories in an effort to lobby for international support for all hostages to be freed – and to support Israel’s war effort.
The group of five will meet political leaders during a two-day visit in Canberra.
“Our aim first is to get the hostages back, all of them,” Elad Levy told reporters outside the Parliament House. Levy’s niece, Roni Eshel, was a 19-year-old soldier initially thought kidnapped during Hamas’ Oct. 7 incursion into Israel but confirmed dead weeks later.
“Our second aim is to get the support of the Australian people and the Australian government … for Israel’s actions in wiping out Hamas and in our military actions right now to eradicate Hamas,” Levy said.
The prisoners were greeted by cheering crowds who surrounded the bus as it made its way through the streets of the West Bank city.
So far, 150 Palestinians have been released from Israeli prisons.
It is the fourth such release under a cease-fire deal with the Hamas military group. Israel freed 33 Palestinian prisoners later in the day. The hostages were back on Israeli territory and undergoing initial medical checks before being reunited with their families.
Israeli media said the hostages included two women and nine children. Two of the children are 3 years old.
BRUSSELS – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will return this week to the Middle East as the U.S. hopes to find a way to extend a cease-fire in Gaza and get more hostages released, the State Department said. It will be his third trip to the region since Israel’s war with Hamas began last month.
Blinken will travel to Israel and the West Bank after attending Ukraine-focused meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday in Brussels and Skopje, North Macedonia, where foreign ministers from NATO and the Organization for Peace and Security in Europe are gathering.
Israel has agreed to pauses in its military operations in exchange for the gradual release of hostages taken by Hamas during its Oct. 7 attacks on Israel. The agreement had been due to expire Monday but was extended for an additional two days, meaning the extension will be expiring just as Blinken is arriving in Israel.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Monday the U.S. hopes to see the pause extended further, but it is dependent on Hamas continuing to release hostages.
BURLINGTON, Vermont – Three college students of Palestinian descent out for a walk near the University of Vermont were seriously injured over the weekend when a man shot them at close range on a city street – an attack being investigated as a possible hate crime, authorities said Monday.
A suspect, Jason J. Eaton, made his initial court appearance by video from jail on three counts of attempted murder, and a plea of not guilty was entered on his behalf on Monday. He was ordered held without bail.
The U.S. Department of Justice, along with Vermont authorities, were investigating whether Saturday’s shooting was a hate crime amid an increase in threats against Jewish, Muslim and Arab communities across the U.S. since the Israel–Hamas war began, Attorney General Merrick Garland said. “There is understandable fear in communities across the country,” he said.
The three men, all age 20, were spending their Thanksgiving break in Burlington and were out for a walk while visiting one of the victims’ relatives when they were confronted by a white man with a handgun, police said.
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