Israel and Hamas have agreed to extend their ceasefire in Gaza by another day, a decision that came just minutes before the truce was set to expire. However, the future of the ceasefire remains uncertain as negotiations over the remaining captives held by Hamas get tougher, and violence erupts in Jerusalem.
Last-Minute Extension Amid Rising Tensions
The truce extension was announced Thursday, amidst increasing international pressure for its continuation after nearly eight weeks of conflict. This conflict has led to a significant humanitarian crisis in Gaza, with thousands of Palestinians killed and more than three-quarters of the 2.3 million population uprooted.
Jerusalem Attack Complicates Ceasefire
As news of the truce extension broke, a violent incident unfolded in Jerusalem. Gunmen opened fire on people waiting for buses along a main highway, killing at least three and wounding several others. The attackers, identified as brothers from a Palestinian neighborhood in annexed east Jerusalem, were killed by police. Hamas claimed the attack, calling it “a natural response” to Israel’s actions, but it was unclear if the attack had been ordered by Hamas’ leaders.
Hostage Talks Intensify
Negotiations over the remaining hostages held by Hamas are expected to get tougher. According to reports, Hamas has released most of the women and children kidnapped during the deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israel that triggered the war. Israel, under pressure from families of the hostages, is negotiating for their return but faces internal political challenges.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, visiting the region, expressed his condolences for the Jerusalem attack victims and stressed the importance of extending the ceasefire and releasing more hostages. “This process is producing results. It’s important, and we hope that it can continue,” he said.
Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza
In Gaza, residents are facing a dire situation with extensive destruction and a desperate search for aid. The pause in fighting has allowed more aid to be delivered from Egypt, but it remains insufficient for the over 1 million displaced people. Many are forced to sleep outside due to overcrowding in U.N.-run shelters.
International Mediation Efforts
Qatar and Egypt have played key roles in mediating the truce, with Qatar announcing the latest extension. Both countries are now seeking to prolong the deal by another two days, according to reports.
The Toll of the Conflict
The Israeli bombardment and ground invasion in Gaza have resulted in over 13,300 Palestinian deaths, while Israel has lost 77 soldiers. The death toll is likely higher as officials have only sporadically updated the count since Nov. 11.