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Further extensions of Gaza truce look increasingly unlikely

THE resumption of Israel’s brutal military campaign in Gaza looked increasingly likely last night, despite a further extension of the truce taking effect early today.

Hamas, the Islamist group that rules the Palestinian coastal enclave, freed a further two Israeli hostages in the afternoon, with more expected to follow, the Israeli military said.

At least 10 Israelis a day, along with other nationals, have been released during the truce, in return for Israel freeing at least 30 Palestinian prisoners.

However, any further renewal of the truce could prove more harder to agree since Hamas, having already freed most of the women and children kidnapped during its October 7 attack on Israel, is expected to make greater demands in return for freeing scores of civilian men and soldiers.

The initial truce, which began last Friday and has now been extended twice, called for the release of women and children. Only about 30 now remain in captivity, according to Israeli officials.

It’s not clear how many of the women are soldiers. For soldiers and the civilian men still in captivity, Hamas is expected to demand the release of Palestinians convicted of deadly attacks, something Israel has strongly resisted in the past.

Israel says that about 125 men are still being held, including several dozen soldiers.

The 210 Palestinians released, including at least seven Israeli Palestinians, have been women and teenagers.

The teens were largely accused of throwing stones and petrol bombs at Israeli forces.

A number of the women were detained for social media posts that Israeli authorities said constituted incitement of violence.

Several were convicted by military courts of attempting to attack soldiers, some after being found carrying scissors or knives near security positions.

Israel says it will maintain the truce — when began after nearly eight weeks of bombardment and a ground campaign in Gaza had killed over 13,000 Palestinians, uprooted more than three-quarters of the population of 2.3 million and caused a humanitarian crisis — until Hamas stops releasing captives.

US President Joe Biden’s administration has urged it to operate with far greater precision if it resumes its offensive, though avoiding civilian casualties in a place as overcrowded as Gaza is all but impossible, as Washington no doubt knows.

Although US Democratic politicians have called for conditions to be placed on US military assistance to Israel and Mr Biden signalled this week that he was open to the idea, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told about a dozen senators on Tuesday that the White House “is not asking for any conditionality in aid,” according to Chris Van Hollen, one of the legislators at the meeting.

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