Israel and Hamas Consider Extending Ceasefire as Hostage Swap Progresses

Omar Atshan, 17, is hugged by his mother after being released from an Israeli prison in the West Bank town of Ramallah, Sunday Nov. 26, 2023. Israel released 39 Palestinian prisoners in a third exchange of hostages for prisoners with Hamas Sunday.(AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

As the ceasefire in Gaza, which temporarily halted the most severe Israeli-Palestinian conflict in recent history, approached its scheduled conclusion, Israel and Hamas appeared open to an extension. This potential prolongation coincides with the fourth exchange of hostages, a key element of the truce.

Ceasefire Extension on the Horizon

Both Israel and Hamas have expressed interest in prolonging the truce beyond its current deadline. Israel has proposed extending the ceasefire by one day for every ten additional hostages released, while Hamas has also shown a desire to maintain the four-day ceasefire established after weeks of negotiations mediated by the United States, Qatar, and Egypt.

Complex Dynamics of the Ceasefire

Despite the ceasefire, tensions remain high, with Israel asserting its commitment to dismantle Hamas’ military capabilities and governance in Gaza. This stance could imply an expansion of military operations into southern Gaza, where conditions continue to deteriorate despite increased aid deliveries under the truce.

This handout photo provided by the Israel Prime Minister Office shows Naveh Shoham, 8 years old, upon his arrival in Israel after being freed. Naveh was one of the 13 Israeli hostages that Hamas released late Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, in the second round of swaps under a cease-fire deal. (Israel Prime Minister Office/Handout via AP)

Hostage Releases and Negotiations

So far, 62 hostages have been released, with a third release witnessing 17 more hostages freed, including 14 Israelis. In response, Israel released 39 Palestinian prisoners, primarily teenagers accused of less-serious offenses. The last planned exchange is expected to occur on Monday, with hopes to release a total of 50 Israeli hostages and 150 Palestinian prisoners.

Humanitarian Concerns in Gaza

The ceasefire has provided some relief to Gaza’s residents, but the humanitarian situation remains dire. More than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed, with two-thirds being women and minors. The pause in hostilities has allowed for increased delivery of essentials like food and water, but this still falls short of the needs, as reported by the U.N.

Abigail Edan has been identified as the 3-year-old US citizen being held hostage by Hamas, according to her family.
Undated photo of Abigail Edan. Elizabeth Hirsh Naftali

Voices from the Ground

The families of hostages, including the relatives of Abigail Edan, a 4-year-old dual Israeli-American citizen released on Sunday, have been vocal about their anguish. “We can get all hostages back home. We have to keep pushing,” they stated. On the Palestinian side, the struggles of residents like Amani Taha, a widow and mother of three, highlight the broader humanitarian crisis.

International Mediation and Challenges

Egyptian officials involved in the mediation efforts have hinted at a possible extension of the ceasefire by another four days. However, the situation in the occupied West Bank and the demands by Hamas for an end to Israeli military raids add complexity to these negotiations.