The Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper is reporting that a preliminary understanding has been reached to extend the truce for two more days, under the same conditions that are currently being observed. The paper has quoted Egyptian officials as its source.
Israeli officials confirmed to the Haaretz newspaper that the proposal was being examined, but has not yet been confirmed. Haaretz reports an Israeli source as saying the agreement on an extension depended on whether Hamas is able to release 10 additional Israeli hostages a day.
As we reported earlier, with fewer women and children remaining in captivity extending the truce may require Hamas to free at least some Israeli men for the first time.
Attention now turns to Qatar which mediated indirect talks between Hamas and Israel that resulted in the ceasefire.
On Tuesday, Qatar hosted spy chiefs from Israel’s the Mossad and the United States’ CIA. The meeting sought to “build on the progress of the extended humanitarian pause agreement and to initiate further discussions about the next phase of a potential deal”, a source briefed on the visits told Reuters.
AFP has spoken to Taghrid al-Najjar, a 46-year-old mother who lives in Gaza. She told reporters that before the war, she had never left her farming village along the border with Israel in the south-east.
She told reporters:
I discovered that my house had been completely destroyed – 27 years of my life to build it and everything is gone. For two days I couldn’t eat, then I told myself that I had to continue living. My house is destroyed but my children are alive, so we will rebuild. We have already done it once, we can do it again.
For weeks she lived with nine members of her family in a Khan Younis school converted into a makeshift camp for displaced people, but has returned to what is left of her home during the pause in fighting.
Each night the family squeezes through a window to sleep in the only room where the walls have not entirely crumpled. Once there is a permanent ceasefire, Najjar said, they will pitch a tent, but only for “long enough to rebuild the house”.
Tass reports that more Russian hostages are expected to be released today in what Hamas has described as a sign of ‘gratitude’ to Russia’s president Vladimir Putin for the position he has taken on the conflict in Gaza.
It quotes Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzook saying: “We have not released any of the Israeli men who are in Gaza, with the exception of Russian Ron Krivoy, whom we released as a sign of the movement’s gratitude towards the position of Russia’s President Putin. Today, several other Russians will be released outside the framework of the truce deal.”
Tass notes that Abu Marzook has recently visited Moscow. Krivoy was released on 26 November. The Russian-Israeli worked as a sound technician at the Nova music festival attacked by Hamas. Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said the release was due to Russian diplomatic contacts with Hamas.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called Benjamin Netanyahu “the butcher of Gaza” and accused Israel’s prime minister of spawning antisemitism across the world.
AFP reports that in televised remarks on Wednesday, the Turkish president said:
Netanyahu has already written his name in history as the butcher of Gaza. Netanyahu is endangering the security of all Jews in the world by supporting antisemitism with the murders he committed in Gaza.
Israel recalled all its diplomatic staff from Turkey as a security precaution at the start of its war with Hamas. Turkey has also withdrawn its Tel Aviv envoy. The two sides had last year reappointed ambassadors after a decade-long rupture in ties.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday he welcomed a pause in the war in Gaza and the exchange of hostages and detainees between Israel and Hamas as a temporary “stop of bloodshed” in the territory.
Speaking in parliament, Turkey’s president said statements by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in Israel were “lessening” Ankara’s hopes that the pause could turn into a full ceasefire, but added Turkey would ramp up diplomatic efforts for a lasting ceasefire in coming days.
Reuters reports Erdoğan also said Turkey had “largely completed” evacuating its citizens from Gaza, where he repeated a genocide was taking place. He added that he would discuss the war in Gaza during a trip to Dubai later this week.
A planned visit to Ankara by Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, this week was cancelled without explanation.
Anthony Albanese’s Australian government is coming under significant and increasing pressure from within to take a stronger line on a full ceasefire in Gaza.
About 40 Labor party branches in New South Wales have passed motions demanding a full ceasefire.
Insiders have said, while this was not yet a majority of Labor branches within the state, the increasing internal agitation for a ceasefire reflected growing concerns among the party’s grassroots. Many branches had yet to hold meetings.
“The fact that so many across a wide geographic spread have passed quickly in just over a month, including in the prime minister’s own branch, shows there’s a depth of feeling among the Labor rank and file about this issue,” said a party insider.
Ihab Abu Auf, a father of three staying with another family in southern Gaza, has told the media he tried twice to return to his home in the north but was turned back by Israeli troops.
“Where will we go then with our women and children?” Abu Auf said. “They want another Nakba.”
Omar al-Darawi, who works at the overwhelmed al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in the central town of Deir al-Balah, said: “We are fed up … We want this war to stop.”
The two men spoke to Associated Press on Wednesday.
Hamas has informed mediators that it is willing to extend the truce for four days, a source close to the militant group has told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Under that arrangement, “the movement would be able to release Israeli prisoners that it, other resistance movements and other parties hold during this period, according to the terms of the existing truce,” the source added.
Al Jazeera reports that at least 242 Palestinians have been killed and more than 3,000 wounded since 7 October in the occupied West Bank.
It says those killed include 57 children, one woman and six prisoners who died in Israeli custody.
Pope Francis has again called for the continuation of the truce in the Gaza Strip, for the release of all hostages and for humanitarian aid access into the territory.
The 87-year-old pope, who has been unwell, asked an aide to read his remarks for him at his weekly audience with the public at the Vatican.
Hind Khoudary is in Khan Younis, in the south of the Gaza Strip, and she has reported for Al Jazeera, saying: “We’ve just learned of a shooting in the northern Gaza Strip by Israeli forces in which two Palestinians have been injured, one of whom is in serious condition.”
She added: “People are using the last hours of this extended truce to buy as many necessities as they can. People say this truce is meaningless because they are not able to go back to their homes and make sure their families that are stuck in the north are safe.”
Sixty Israelis have been freed as part of the truce so far. Another 21 hostages – 19 Thais, one Filipino and one Russian-Israeli – have also been released in separate negotiations since the ceasefire began, Associated Press reports.
Prior to the truce, Hamas released four hostages, and the Israeli army rescued one. Two other hostages were found dead in Gaza. It remains unclear how many people are still being held and their condition. Mediators in Qatar say they have been unable to verify the numbers beyond the list of hostages expected to be released today, which marks the final day under the current agreement.
The latest swap brought to 180 the number of Palestinian women and children freed from Israeli prisons as part of the deal. Most have been teenagers accused of throwing stones and firebombs during confrontations with Israeli forces. Several were women convicted by Israeli military courts of attempting deadly attacks.
Prisoner advocate groups said that over the four days of the initial truce, Israeli forces arrested at least 133 Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, meaning the total number of Palestinian detainees held by Israel has reduced by less than 50.
Here are some of the latest images sent to us from Gaza over the news wires.
The Times of Israel is reporting that medics have assessed some of the hostages returned overnight from Gaza and found them in generally good medical condition.
It quotes Prof David Zeltser, deputy director of emergency medicine at Ichilov hospital, saying two women taken there were well, and Prof Itai Pessach, from the facility in Sheba that took in eight returnees, saying the freed captives were “a group of extraordinary women who endured the hardships of their captivity in a remarkable fashion”.
He added: “Their medical situation is complex and they will need ongoing medical treatment and attention, but there is no immediate danger to any of them.”
Haaretz reports that “according to an official familiar with the ceasefire negotiations”, Israel has indicated that it is unwilling to extend the truce beyond Sunday. Israel previously said it would extend the truce for a day for every occasion on which 10 hostages were released by Hamas from captivity in Gaza.