Cover Photo: (AP News | Nasser Nasser)
As Hamas freed 10 more hostages in exchange for 30 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, negotiators from at least five countries met in Qatar today to discuss an extension to the temporary cease-fire in the Gaza Strip before the truce expires.
In the early morning of Wednesday, November 22, Israel’s cabinet made an unprecedented vote to approve a temporary ceasefire with Hamas in exchange for the release of roughly 50 hostages taken during the October 7 terror attack.
The tentative deal brokered in partnership with Qatar also included the release of around 150 Israeli-held Palestinian prisoners, consisting of women and children from the West Bank and East Jerusalem who were kept in administrative detention for years without charge.
The proposal required fighting between Israeli and Hamas forces to pause for around four to five days depending on whether more Israeli hostages were released. The ceasefire officially began on Friday, November 24 once the first round of hostages and prisoners were released with the final scheduled exchange of the current deal expected to conclude after six days.
As of today, in total over 100 Israeli hostages and 180 Palestinian prisoners have been released according to the deal. Israeli officials believe Hamas still holds at least 140 more hostages in Gaza as Hamas delivered 16 more hostages in the latest swap including 10 Israeli women and children and four Thai nationals.
Though Israel claims it is willing to extend the cease-fire by one day for every 10 additional hostages that Hamas releases, negotiations for further extensions appear to be growing more difficult as Hamas is expected to seek higher demands such as Palestinian security prisoners in exchange for men and Israeli soldiers still held captive.
Furthermore, discussions for a permanent ceasefire to bring the conflict to an end appear to be even more challenging if not impossible at the moment due to Israel’s current policy position.
If no more hostages are freed under the deal Israel vows to immediately resume the war and its bombing campaign on Gaza. However, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, regardless if all hostages are released Israel will continue the war until Hamas is eliminated.
“After this phase of returning our abductees is exhausted, will Israel return to fighting? My answer is an unequivocal yes,” he said. “There is no way we are not going back to fighting until the end.”
However, according to former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, the “time is ripe” for a larger swap regarding the current humanitarian crisis with Gaza.
“Netanyahu can see that Hamas prefers not to return to war but the [Israeli] public insistence on prioritizing return of hostages ties his hands,” Indyk wrote on X. “And pressure from [President Joe] Biden to extend the pause makes it doubly difficult for him to resume the battle.”
With thousands of Palestinian civilians killed and three-quarters of the population of 2.3 million displaced following Israel’s bombardment and ground campaign in Gaza, international pressure for the cease-fire to continue as long as possible remains prominent, particularly from the UN.
Though the success of the negotiations will likely be tested, the pressures and incentives for both Israel and Hamas to persist with the deal are stronger than the incentives to go back to war.
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