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25 April, 2024
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Israel releases 17 hostages, including Russian and Thai nationals

Qatar urges extension, Gaza leaders assert strong position


In the latest chapter of the ongoing conflict, the third exchange of hostages and prisoners between Hamas and Israel unfolded amidst a fragile four-day truce in Gaza.

The United States expressed optimism for an extension beyond Monday, emphasizing the need for continued progress in the release of prisoners.

Israel confirmed the release of 17 hostages by Hamas, including a Russian national and three Thai nationals, all of whom were women or children.

Simultaneously, Israeli authorities freed 39 Palestinian prisoners, predominantly women and children.

The day was marked by poignant moments, notably the release of a girl orphaned in Hamas's recent attack in Israel. Additionally, aid finally reached the devastated north of Gaza, providing relief to the affected population.

President Joe Biden welcomed the release of four-year-old Abigail Edan, a US-Israeli dual national, expressing a desire for the truce to persist as long as prisoners were being released.

He pledged continued personal engagement to ensure the deal's full implementation and potential extension.

Hamas signaled its openness to extending the truce, with sources indicating a willingness to prolong it by "two to four days." The group believes this extension could secure the release of additional Israeli prisoners.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a visit to forces in Gaza, asserted their commitment to continue the campaign until victory.

Netanyahu conveyed to Biden that Israel would resume its campaign with full force once the truce concludes. Still, he expressed willingness to extend it if it facilitated the agreed-upon release of 10 hostages daily under the Qatari-brokered deal.

Qatar emphasized the need for Hamas to find dozens of hostages to extend the truce.

The state's prime minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, highlighted the belief that at least 40 women and children were being detained in Gaza but not by Hamas. He stated that additional releases could prompt an extension.

In Tel Aviv, a massive demonstration called for the release of hostages, with relatives becoming an increasingly assertive political force. The release of Abigail Edan, who endured unthinkable circumstances, resonated as a significant moment in Israel.

While hopes for a lasting truce face challenges, the ceasefire represents the first significant pause in seven weeks of intense conflict.

The war, triggered by Hamas's attack in October, resulted in substantial casualties, displacements, and destruction across the Gaza Strip.

The dilemma facing Israel's leaders involves reconciling the military offensive with the goal of freeing all captives. Trust issues between Israel and Hamas persist, with accusations of breaches from both sides.

The conflict has sparked increased violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested. In Ramallah, families await news, hoping for an extension of the list of candidates for release under the deal.

As the situation unfolds, residents in southern Gaza seek fuel amid military orders restricting movement. The Palestinian Red Crescent reported Israeli forces opening fire on farmers in central Gaza.

Hamas announced the death of Ahmed al-Ghandour, in charge of northern Gaza and a high-ranking military council member. The pause in hostilities with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon seemed to be holding on Sunday night.

The complexities of the situation underscore the challenges in achieving a sustained truce.

[With information sourced from The Guardian]

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