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QATAR announced today that a further two days’ truce between Israel and Hamas would take place, bringing the prospect of further exchanges of militant-held hostages for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.
It came on the final day of the original four-day truce between the warring sides.
A fourth swap of hostages for prisoners under that deal was expected later last night after discrepancies between the two sides’ lists could be resolved.
Israel has said it would extend the ceasefire by one day for every 10 extra hostages released. After the Qatari announcement, Hamas confirmed it had agreed to a two-day extension “under the same terms.”
International calls for a longer or permanent ceasefire continue.
US President Joe Biden said his goal was “to keep this pause going beyond tomorrow so that we can continue to see more hostages come out and surge more humanitarian relief into those in need in Gaza.”
In Barcelona, EU and Arab leaders met at a Union for the Mediterranean summit jointly chaired by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, both of whom called for Israel’s assault on Gaza to end.
Mr Borrell said he condemned Hamas’s attack of October 7, which killed about 1,400 Israelis, but could not condone Israel’s onslaught on Gaza with its more than 5,000 child dead already: “One horror cannot justify another horror. Peace between Israel and Palestine has become a strategic imperative for the entire Euro-Mediterranean community.”
And Mr Safadi, who argued at the summit that Israel’s Gaza invasion met the definition of genocide, said that “Europe has a crucial role to play — the two-state solution cannot remain a talking point.”
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki appealed to the gathered leaders to “apply the necessary pressure” to stop Israel resuming its war.
But Israel declined to attend the summit and summoned the Belgian and Spanish ambassadors to protest at their governments’ stated support for recognition of a Palestinian state.
Palestinian officials complain that Israel has been arresting Palestinians as fast as it releases them in prisoner exchanges, with the Palestinian Red Crescent complaining that two hospital directors, Awni Khattab of the Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis and Mohammed Abu Salmiya of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, have been detained. The World Health Organisation says that Israel has refused information on their whereabouts.
Hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested in raids across the occupied West Bank; officials privy to the negotiations said that Hamas wanted a halt to these in return for extending the truce.
And while Israel says it is open to a longer pause for more exchanges, it also maintains that, when this process ends, it is determined to resume the war until Hamas is wiped out.
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