Truce Negotiations: Hostage Releases and Humanitarian Challenges in Gaza

Truce Negotiations: Hostage Releases and Humanitarian Challenges in Gaza

GAZA/JERUSALEM - On the last day of a six-day truce in the Gaza Strip conflict, expectations rise for the release of more hostages and prisoners by Hamas and Israel.

Attention centers on Qatar, the mediator, and the potential negotiation of another extension. According to Israeli media citing the prime minister's office, Israel has received a list of hostages expected to be released by Hamas. Israel considers extending the truce if Hamas continues to release a minimum of 10 Israeli hostages daily.

However, with fewer women and children in captivity, negotiations may be required to free Israeli men for the first time to maintain the ceasefire beyond Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the Palestinian militant group Hamas and Islamic Jihad released 12 hostages, bringing the total to 81 since the truce began. These releases have mainly included Israeli women and children, along with foreign citizens.

Simultaneously, Israel released 30 Palestinians from Ofer Prison and a Jerusalem detention center, totaling 180 Palestinians released under the truce.

The hostages were among 240 people seized by Hamas during an incursion into southern Israel on October 7. Israel claims 1,200 people were killed in the incident, leading to its retaliation with bombardment in Gaza, resulting in over 15,000 Gazan casualties.

Qatar, the mediator of indirect talks, hosted the spy chiefs from Israel's Mossad and the U.S. CIA on Tuesday. Discussions included parameters for a new phase of the truce deal, potentially involving the release of male hostages or military personnel. Foreign ministers of the G7 nations issued a joint statement calling for a ceasefire extension and increased humanitarian aid.

Approximately 159 hostages remain in Gaza, including eight to nine Americans, according to the White House. The U.S. government expresses hope for more releases and intends to work with Qatar to extend the pause in fighting.

Despite the temporary ceasefire providing respite after seven weeks of fighting, Gaza faces a severe humanitarian crisis. The collapse of Gaza's healthcare system and the lack of access to essential resources pose a threat of disease outbreaks. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres emphasizes the urgent need for a humanitarian ceasefire.

The truce has allowed around 800 aid trucks to enter Gaza, and the first of three U.S. planes with humanitarian supplies has landed in Egypt. Martin Griffiths, the U.N. aid chief, is set to discuss reopening the Kerem Shalom crossing for humanitarian aid to enter Gaza from Israel, addressing the critical humanitarian situation in the region.

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