More captives to be freed as mediators work to prolong the Israel-Hamas truce : NPR


Newly freed Palestinian prisoner Lamees Abu Arqub kisses her father after Palestinians were freed from Israeli jails in exchange for Hamas hostages held in Gaza, in the village of Dura in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday.

Hazem Bader/AFP via Getty Images


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Hazem Bader/AFP via Getty Images

Newly freed Palestinian prisoner Lamees Abu Arqub kisses her father after Palestinians were freed from Israeli jails in exchange for Hamas hostages held in Gaza, in the village of Dura in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday.

Hazem Bader/AFP via Getty Images

TEL AVIV, Israel — A temporary truce between Israel and Hamas was set to expire on Wednesday, but mediators in Qatar were trying to extend it for at least another 48 hours to allow for the exchange of more captives and for additional aid to reach embattled Gaza.

On the second day of a two-day cease-fire extension, at least another 10 Israelis were expected to be freed by Hamas in exchange for at least 30 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office says it believes that 161 of the original 240 hostages seized by Hamas in last month’s attack on Israeli communities were still being held by the Islamist militant group. Israel says around 1,200 people were killed when Hamas fighters swept out of the Gaza Strip, striking nearby Israeli communities.

On Tuesday, Hamas freed 10 Israelis and two Thai laborers in exchange for 30 Palestinians prisoners and detainees.

The families of Israeli hostages released by Hamas continue to share stories of their relatives’ captivity, with some relatives speaking to media outlets. Gideon Heiman says his 84-year-old mother did not receive necessary medical treatment while being held Gaza.

Israeli doctors also say rescued hostages have returned malnourished. One of the former captives is in stable condition at a hospital, but her family says her neurological condition is still unclear. Devora Cohen says her 12-year-old nephew Eitan told her that his captors used guns to threaten crying Israeli children to be quiet.

Earlier, a U.S. official told NPR that CIA Director William Burns was in Doha for meetings with Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani and David Barnea, the chief of Mossad, Israel’s spy agency. Speaking to NPR, an Israeli official on Tuesday also reiterated that “Israel has consistently said that as long as more hostages are released, it would address the possibility of further extending the pauses.”

Meanwhile, Hamas told mediators that they approve of extending the truce for four days, Israeli media reported. Israeli media has also said that a longer cease-fire could be in the works to secure the release of all the hostages and a large number of Palestinian prisoners.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that “airstrikes, shelling, and ground clashes have largely ceased,” since the temporary truce went into effect on Friday, but said that “exchange of fire reportedly took place between Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups in the Beit Hanoun area, in the north, and Israeli forces reportedly used tank fire at open areas in the south.”

The pause had allowed Egypt and the Palestinian Red Crescent Societies and U.N. agencies “to enhance the delivery of assistance into and across Gaza.” The U.N. said a Red Crescent aid convoy carrying food, medical supplies, water and non-food items reached areas north of an informal dividing line that bisects Gaza. Israel’s military, which has focused its military campaign on the north has warned Gazans to move south of the line.

Even with the aid convoy reaching the embattled north, OCHA emphasized that “the bulk of aid distribution during the day” took place in the south. It also cautioned that the aid reaching Gaza since the pause “is insufficient to meet the extensive needs.”

On Monday, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called for “a full humanitarian ceasefire, for the benefit of the people of Gaza, Israel and the wider region.”

NPR’s Scott Neuman and Daniel Estrin reported from Tel Aviv.



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